New report highlights severe intelligence failures on Jan. 6

WASHINGTON (thehill): Senate investigators have outlined a spectacular series of intelligence and communication failures leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in a new report that paints the picture of a horrific scene that left lawmakers and staff scrambling for safety.

The 127-page report, which includes a transcript of former President Trump’s speech to rallygoers, is the first full congressional committee review of the deadly attack on Congress as it moved to certify President Biden’s election victory.

It pieces together multiple warnings of violence that were poorly circulated and largely went unheeded by top leaders in several agencies. That left Capitol Police forces unprepared for clashes with hundreds of protesters outside and inside the building.

The report follows a series of interviews with security leaders across the Capitol, Pentagon and intelligence community about a day where it took hours for additional security to arrive on the scene as ultimately seven people, including three police officers, would lose their lives in connection with the insurrection.

The joint effort from the Senate Rules Committee and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee blames bureaucratic delays in getting assistance to Capitol Police officers getting “chaotic, sporadic, and, according to many front-line officers, non-existent” instruction from commanders.

“The failures are obvious. I think to me it was all summed up by one of the things in our report where one of the officers was heard on the radio that day asking the tragically simple question: ‘Does anybody have a plan?’ Sadly, no one did,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Rules Committee.

The report shows how people coming to Washington, D.C., shared online maps of the tunnels underneath the Capitol used by lawmakers. It offers a glimpse of previously unreported threats from those planning to attend the rally and makes it clear people discussed bringing weapons.

“If a million patriots [show] up bristling with AR’s, just how brave do you think they’ll be when it comes to enforcing their unconstitutional laws? … This is do or die. Bring your guns,” one commenter wrote in a Dec. 21 intelligence report. 

“Get into Capitol Building, stand outside congress. Be in the room next to them. They wont have time [to] run if they play dumb,” another wrote.

Intelligence is faulted throughout the report.

It states that one of Capitol Police’s three intelligence units “did not convey the full scope of known information to USCP leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners” after learning of the intelligence on the tunnels. Nor did the office shift its overall analysis of an intelligence report released just two days later.

Even as a Jan. 3 report warned “Congress itself is the target on the 6th” and could create a “significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike,” the intelligence wasn’t incorporated into subsequent reports leading up to the attack and Capitol Police rated the likelihood of civil disturbance on Jan. 6 as “remote” to “improbable.”

One explanation for why that information wasn’t more widely distributed was because “a single analyst prepared and disseminated” the information “without supervisory review.”

“Months following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, there is still no consensus among USCP officials about the intelligence reports’ threat analysis ahead of January 6, 2021,” the report states.

Intelligence officials across various agencies cited the difficulty of separating rhetoric from overt threats. But lawmakers also slammed the top agencies for failing to provide any official warnings.

“Despite online calls for violence at the Capitol, neither the FBI nor DHS issued a threat assessment or intelligence bulletin warning law enforcement entities in the National Capital Region of the potential for violence,” the report states, referring to the Department of Homeland Security.

The report comes as the Senate has failed to advance legislation that would create an independent bipartisan commission modeled on the one after the 9/11 terror attacks to review the events of Jan 6. A majority of Republican lawmakers have argued the work of the committee and other House-based investigations are sufficient for reviewing the attack.

“We did not investigate what motivated the crowds to come to the building to disrupt the counting of the electoral votes,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee told reporters.

“The American people certainly do deserve to get all the facts about what happened in this attack, and that’s certainly why I personally support the creation of an independent commission to conduct a comprehensive examination to get the answers to all of these questions. This report is not intended to be a substitute for that commission.”

The Senate also has yet to take up House-passed legislation that would authorize $1.9 billion to upgrade Capitol security, boost funding for the Capitol Police, allot more resources for individual lawmaker security and create a standing “quick reaction force” within the National Guard to help respond to emergencies.

The Senate committees offered several recommendations, including changing the existing statute so that the Capitol Police chief is empowered to request National Guard assistance in emergencies.  Lawmakers said they would introduce legislation to do so shortly.

“Really, we think that the Capitol Police chief in an emergency should be able to unilaterally request help,” without seeking approval from the Pentagon, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), told reporters.

Other recommendations include ensuring that Capitol Police has enough personnel, training and equipment, centralizes its intelligence-gathering operations and establishes operational plans for special events. 

According to the investigation, the Capitol Police “could not provide the committees any documents showing where officers were located at the start of the attack and how that changed throughout the attack.”

The day of the attack, officers were largely unprepared, with many lacking recent training in responding to civil disobedience and with much of the force’s aging equipment staged on a bus near the Capitol. In at least one case, “the bus was locked, leaving the platoon without access to this critical equipment.”

“The many other USCP officers who fought to defend the Capitol were left to do so in their daily uniforms,” the report states.

The report also details other communications failures, leaving officers isolated as the attack was unfolding.

“USCP’s Incident Command System broke down during the attack, leaving frontline officers without key information or instructions as events unfolded. USCP did not formally designate incident commanders in advance of Jan. 6 through a department-wide operational plan. Senior officers were directly engaged with rioters during the attack, and USCP leadership never took control of the radio system to communicate orders to front-line officers,” the report states.

The report further outlines the degree to which the Capitol Police Board — consisting of the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms along with the architect of the Capitol — were split over whether to call for National Guard assistance.

“Capitol Police Board members also disagreed as to whether unanimity was required to approve a request from USCP for assistance from the District of Columbia National Guard,” the report noted, adding that the group “did not appear to be fully familiar with the statutory and regulatory requirements for requesting National Guard support.”

Once the request for National Guard assistance made it to the Pentagon, Defense Department officials told lawmakers that its hesitance to use a quick reaction force to respond to events was “informed by criticism it received about its response to the civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd.”

 “DOD officials cited lessons learned from the summer 2020 as guiding its decision-making for January 6,” the report states.

Lawmakers pledged to continue their joint effort on investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, noting they would still seek information from several officials and agencies that refused to cooperate with Senate investigators. 

The House sergeant-at-arms, a role now filled by the previous D.C. National Guard chief, did not comply with request for information, while Deputy Capitol Police Chief Chad Thomas, who resigned Monday, also declined to be interviewed. The report noted that the departments of Justice and Homeland Security have also yet to fully comply with requests for information.