06.08.21

Peters' report details failures ahead of Jan. 6 attack, calls for changes

A panel led in part by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., found intelligence agencies and law enforcement failed to react to threats made ahead of the Jan. 6 attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump on the U.S. Capitol and called for improving readiness and shortening response times. 

The joint report was released Tuesday by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Peters chairs, and the Rules and Administration Committee. 

It calls for giving the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police unilateral authority to request National Guard assistance in emergencies and for the Pentagon to develop “contingency plans for responding quickly to civil disturbance and terrorism incidents.” It also calls for the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to review its handling and sharing of information, including threats of violence posted on social media.

The report noted the agencies failed to act despite online threats of violence, including a report from the FBI’s Norfolk, Virginia, office the day before the attack that outlined a comment from someone on social media saying, “Be Ready to Fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in. … Go there ready for war.” 

Intelligence agencies deemed the material not credible enough to issue a security bulletin and considered the message protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

At least five people died during or soon after the attack, including three law enforcement officers. Some 140 law enforcement personnel were injured while trying to repel the mob, which attempted to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as president following unfounded claims by Trump and others that the outcome of the Nov. 3 election in several states, including Michigan, was fraudulent.

The report said agencies “responsible for securing and protecting the Capitol complex and everyone on-site that day were not prepared for a large-scale attack, despite being aware of the potential for violence.” It said the failure of the intelligence community to properly analyze, assess and disseminate information suggesting that threat was “a key contributing factor” to the attack.

While praising the actions of law enforcement and the National Guard to repel the mob, Peters said the investigation still “identified many unacceptable, widespread breakdowns in security preparations and emergency response.” “Our report offers critical recommendations to address these failures and strengthen security for the Capitol to prevent an attack of this nature from ever happening again,” he said.

The investigation was limited to reviewing the security, planning and response failures that allowed the breach to occur and how to prevent it in the future. It was not intended to assign blame to anyone for causing the attack, though it noted Trump’s continued insistence that the election was stolen from him and included in their entirety his remarks from a “Save America” rally underway at the other end of the National Mall as the attack began.

In a 75-minute-long speech, Trump early on said his followers should go to the Capitol and "peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard." At another, later moment, however, he told them, "If you don't fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore."

Last month, Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have created an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the causes of the attack. 

The Senate report found that U.S. Capitol Police’s own intelligence gathering unit collected some evidence of a possible threat but failed to share it widely even within its own ranks. It also found that Capitol Police failed to have an appropriate plan to response to the possibility of violence; that its civil disturbance unit is undertrained and lacks resources, and that its former chief, Steven Sund, in the days leading up to the attack, never formally requested help from the National Guard.

Pentagon officials, meanwhile, were aware that they had been criticized for their “heavy-handed response” to reacting to Black Lives Matter protesters and others protesting police brutality against people of color in Washington in the summer of 2020 and believed a “clear deployment plan” was needed before sending National Guard members in to respond on Jan. 6. While clear requests for help once the attack occurred appeared to be lacking, the report said, even when they did come, that need for a plan to be drawn up may have further delayed the National Guard response.

“DOD (the Department of Defense) spent hours ‘mission planning,’ ” one heading in the report said.

The report calls on Congress to ensure Capitol Police has “sufficient civilian and sworn personnel, with appropriate training and equipment” to handle such attacks. It also calls for joint training exercises to be conducted and for intelligence agencies to report to Congress “on domestic terrorism data, including on the threat level and the resources dedicated to countering the threat.”


By:  Todd Spangler
Source: Detroit Free Press