Former US Security Officials Cite Intelligence Failure on Capitol Riot

Former officials responsible for securing the U.S. Capitol testified Tuesday before Congress for the first time since the January 6 attack on the complex, blaming inadequate intelligence for the failure to prevent what they characterized as an unexpected, military-style “insurrection” by supporters of former President Donald Trump.  The officials – former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund; former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving; and former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger – testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. The hearing is the first in a series on security and intelligence failures that led to the January 6 attack.  All three former officials resigned immediately after the attack, which left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and at least 140 police officers injured.  Former Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper Michael Stenger testifies via teleconference before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Feb. 23, 2021.The embattled officials testified that while they had prepared for a large protest at the Capitol and the possibility of violence, they had received no intelligence indicating that the pro-Trump crowd would attempt a breach and violent takeover of the seat of Congress.   “The breach of the United States Capitol was not the result of poor planning or failure to contain a demonstration gone wrong,” Sund said. “Without the intelligence to properly prepare, the USCP was significantly outnumbered and left to defend the Capitol against an extremely violent mob.” Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, Feb. 23, 2021.An intelligence assessment by Capitol Police three days before the attack, Sund said, suggested that the January 6 protest would be “similar” to two previous rallies in November and December that drew tens of thousands of Trump supporters to Washington to protest Trump’s loss to Democrat Joe Biden.   In response, Sund said, he put in place an “all hands on deck” security plan, deploying about 1,200 officers to work on January 6 and expanding the security perimeter around the Capitol. “Contrary to some of the reporting, the USCP had an effective plan in place to handle the First Amendment demonstrations and possible pockets of violence that were anticipated for January 6, based upon the available intelligence,” he said Tuesday. At the same time, Sund also blamed the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms for failing to act swiftly to approve his request for National Guard help before and during the riots. The police chief can ask for National Guard help after a Capitol Police Board made up of the sergeants-at-arms declares an emergency.   But Sund said when he asked for help two days before the attack, Irving, the House Sergeant-at-Arms, expressed concern about the “optics” of having National Guard troops around the Capitol “and didn’t feel that the intelligence supported it,” Sund said.  During his testimony, Irving denied that he was concerned about the visuals. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., left, listens to former Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving testify via teleconference during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Feb. 23, 2021.“We did discuss whether the intelligence warranted having troops at the Capitol, and our collective judgment at that time was no — the intelligence did not warrant that,” Irving said. “The intelligence did warrant the plan that had been prepared by Chief Sund.” The three former officials said they did not receive an FBI report distributed on January 5, warning law enforcement agencies about social media calls for violence the next day. The report, prepared by the FBI’s Norfolk field officer, cited an online threat that in part said, “Go there ready for war.” The head of the FBI‘s office in Washington has said that as soon as he received the January 5 warning, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies through the joint terrorism task force.  The hearing is the first of several planned on what went wrong January 6 and how to prevent similar catastrophes in the future, said Senator Amy Klobuchar, the chair of the Rules and Administration panel. Next week, officials from the FBI and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security will testify.  The hearing comes as members of Congress quarrel over a recent proposal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to form an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the attack. The commission will be modeled on a similar panel that investigated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.   Lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing grilled law enforcement officials over the delay in the National Guard’s deployment. Sund, the former Capitol Police chief, blamed it in part on the four-member Capitol Security Board’s failure to immediately declare a state of emergency.  Irving denied that he did not act swiftly.  
 



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