Rioters supporting President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI and Department of Homeland Security downplayed or ignored “an enormous amount of intelligence information” ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to the chairman of a Senate panel which released a new report on intelligence failures before the insurgency on Tuesday.
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The report details how agencies failed to recognize and warn of the potential for violence as some of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters openly plotted the siege in messages and online forums.
Among the multitude of intelligence that was overlooked was a December 2020 tip to the FBI that members of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys planned to be in Washington, DC, for Joe Biden’s victory certification and their “plan is to literally kill people,” the report said. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said the agencies were also aware of many social media posts that foreshadowed the violence, some calling on Trump supporters to “come armed” and storm the Capitol, kill lawmakers, or “raze the place.”
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, Democratic chairman of the Homeland panel, said the breakup was “largely a failure of the imagination to see threats that the Capitol could be breached as credible,” echoing the committee’s findings. 9/11 on future intelligence failures of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The panel’s majority staff report said the intelligence community has not fully recalibrated to focus on domestic, rather than international, terrorism threats. And government intelligence leaders failed to raise the alarm “in part because they could not conceive that the United States Capitol would be overrun by rioters.”
However, Peters said, the reasons for dismissing what he called a “massive” amount of intelligence “defy easy explanation.”
While several other reports looked into the intelligence failures around January 6, including a bipartisan one Senate Report 2021the House commission Jan. 6 last year, and several separate internal assessments by Capitol Police and other government agencies: The latest investigation is the first congressional report to focus solely on the actions of the FBI and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
In the wake of the attack, Peters said the committee interviewed officials from both agencies and found what was “rather constantly pointing fingers” at each other.
“Everyone should be accountable because everyone has failed,” Peters said.
Using emails and interviews gathered by the Senate committee and others, including the Jan. 6 House panel, the report details the information the agencies received in the weeks leading up to the attack.
There was no failure to obtain evidence, the report said, but the agencies “failed to fully and accurately assess the severity of the threat identified by that intelligence and formally disseminate the guidance to their U.S. forces partners.” ‘order”.
As Trump, a Republican, falsely claimed to have won the 2020 election and sought to reverse his electoral defeat, telling his supporters to “fight like hell” in a speech before the White House that day, thousands of they marched to the Capitol . More than 2,000 rioters have stormed law enforcement, assaulted police officers and caused more than $2.7 billion in damage to the Capitol, according to a report by the US Office of Government Accountability earlier this week. ‘year.
By smashing windows and doors, the rioters sent lawmakers running for their lives and temporarily halted the certification of election victory by Biden, a Democrat.
Even as the attack was happening, the FBI and Homeland Security downplayed the threat, according to the new report. As the Capitol Police struggled to clear the building, Homeland Security “was still struggling to assess the credibility of the threats against the Capitol and to report its intelligence.”
And in a 10 a.m. briefing as protesters gathered for Trump’s speech and near the Capitol “were wearing ballistic helmets, bulletproof vests, carrying military-grade radio equipment and backpacks,” the FBI advised there were no “credible threats right now”.
The lack of sufficient warnings meant that law enforcement agencies were not adequately prepared and a hardened perimeter had not been established around the Capitol, as is the case during events such as the annual State of the Union address.
The report contains dozens of tips about the January 6 violence that agencies received and rejected due to lack of coordination, bureaucratic delays or trepidation on the part of those collecting them. The FBI, for example, was unexpectedly thwarted in its attempt to find social media posts planning the January 6 protests when the contract for its third-party social media monitoring tool ran out. At Homeland Security, analysts were reluctant to report open source information after criticism in 2020 for collecting information on American citizens during racial justice rallies.
A tip the FBI received prior to the Jan. 6 attack came from a former Justice Department official who sent screenshots of online posts from members of the extremist group Oath Keepers: “There’s only one way in. It’s not rallies. They’re fucking bullets!”
Social media company Parler, a platform favored by Trump supporters, sent several posts directly to the FBI that it found alarming, adding that there was “other where it came from” and that they were concerned about what would happen on the 6th. January.
“(T)this is not a rally and is no longer a protest,” read one of Parler’s posts sent to the FBI, according to the report. “This is a final location where we are drawing the red line on Capitol Hill. (…) don’t be surprised if we take the #capital building (sic).
But even when it received the warnings, the Senate panel found, the agency reiterated time and time again that there were no credible threats.
“Our nation is still grappling with the aftermath of January 6, but what is clear is the need for a reevaluation of the federal government’s internal intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination processes,” the new report said.
In a statement, Homeland Security spokesman Angelo Fernandez said the department made several of these changes two and a half years later. The department “strengthened intelligence analysis, information sharing and operational preparedness to help prevent acts of violence and keep our communities safe.”
The FBI said in a separate response that since the attack it has increased focus on “rapid sharing of information” and has centralized the flow of information to ensure more timely notification to other entities. “The FBI is determined to aggressively combat the danger posed by all domestic violent extremists, regardless of their motivations,” the statement said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray defended the FBI’s handling of intelligence in the run-up to January 6, including a report from his Norfolk field office on January 5 that cited online posts that foreshadowed the possibility of a ” war” in Washington the next day. The Senate report noted that the memo “failed to note the multitude of other warnings” the agency had received.
The complaint from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security echoes scathing criticism leveled at the US Capitol Police in a bipartisan report released by the Senate Homeland and Rules committees two years ago. That report found that the police’s intelligence unit was also aware of social media posts calling for violence, but did not inform senior management of what they had uncovered.
Peters says he called for an intelligence agency investigation after other reports, such as the House panel investigation last year, focused on other aspects of the attack. The Jan. 6 panel focused more on Trump’s actions and concluded in its report that the former president criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the legal results of the 2020 presidential election and failed to prevent his supporters from attacking the Capitol.
“It’s important for us to acknowledge these failures to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Peters said.