WASHINGTON (AP) – Witnessing the insurgency on the U.S. Capitol for the first time, former security officials accused flawed intelligence services of the disastrous failure to anticipate the violent intentions of the mob that invaded the building and discontinued the certification of the presidential election.
Officials, including the former Capitol Hill police chief, blame other federal agencies – and each other – for their failure to defend the building as supporters of then-President Donald Trump overwhelmed barriers security, smashing windows and doors and sending lawmakers to flee. the chambers of the House and the Senate. They say they expected the protests to be similar to two pro-Trump events in late 2020 that were much less violent.
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund described a scene that “looked like nothing” he had seen in his 30 years of policing.
“When the group arrived at the perimeter, it did not act like any group of protesters I had ever seen,” said the ousted leader, arguing that the insurgency was not the result of poor planning but generalized failures by many agencies and officials.
“No civilian law enforcement agency – and certainly not the USCP – is trained and equipped to repel, without military assistance or other meaningful law enforcement, an insurgency of thousands of armed, violent and coordinated individuals. focused on breaking a building at any cost. Sund said.
The joint hearing, part of a Jan. 6 investigation by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and the Senate Rules Committee, is the first time officials have publicly testified to the day’s events . In addition to Sund, former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and Robert Contee, Acting Police Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, testify.
Sund, Irving and Stenger quit under pressure immediately following the deadly attack.
“We need to have the facts, and the answers are in this room,” Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Rules of the Senate Committee, said at the start of the hearing.
Much remains unknown about what happened before and during the assault. How well did law enforcement know of plans for violence that day, many of which were public? How did the agencies share this information with each other? And how could the Capitol Police have been so ill-prepared for a violent organized insurgency online?
Sund told lawmakers he did not learn until after the attack that his officers had received a report from the FBI field office in Norfolk, Va. That forecast, in detail, the chances that extremists could commit a crime. “War” in Washington the next day. The FBI Washington bureau chief said that once he received the Jan. 5 warning, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies through the Joint Task Force on terrorism.
Sund said on Tuesday that an officer in the task force received the memo and forwarded it to a sergeant working on intelligence for the Capitol Police, but the information was not passed on to any other supervisor. Sund said he was not aware of it.
Fatherland Senate Speaker Gary Peters, D-Mich., Said the intelligence report’s inability to reach the leader was clearly a major problem. “How could you not get this vital intelligence?” He asked.
“That information would have been helpful,” Sund replied.
Officials also disagreed over when the National Guard was called and the guard’s requests in advance. Sund said he spoke to Stenger and Irving about the National Guard’s request in the days leading up to the riot, and Irving said he was concerned about “the optics” of having them present.
Irving denied this, saying Sund’s account was “categorically false.” Security, not optics, determined their security posture, he said, and the main question was whether intelligence supported the decision.
“We all agreed that the intelligence services were not supporting the troops and collectively decided to let them go,” Stenger said. He added that they were satisfied at the time that there was a “robust” plan to protect Congress.
After passing through the perimeter barriers, the invaders engaged in hand-to-hand combat with police officers, injuring dozens of them, and passed through several windows and doors, sending lawmakers to flee the chambers of the House. and the Senate and interrupting the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Five people died as a result of the violence, including a Capitol Hill police officer and a woman who was shot dead by police as she tried to walk through the doors of the chamber of the House while the lawmakers were still inside.
The hearing is the first of many reviews of what happened that day, nearly seven weeks after the attack and more than a week after the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump of incitement to the insurgency by telling his supporters to “fight like hell” to reverse his electoral defeat. Thousands of National Guard soldiers still surround the Capitol in a wide perimeter, cutting off streets and sidewalks that are normally full of cars, pedestrians and tourists.
Congress is also considering creating a bipartisan, independent commission to look at the missteps, and several congressional committees have said they will look at different aspects of the headquarters. Federal law enforcement has arrested more than 230 people accused of being involved in the attack, and President Joe Biden’s candidate for attorney general Judge Merrick Garland said in his confirmation hearing on Monday that the investigation of the riots would be a top priority.
Senators are particularly focused on the timing of the National Guard deployment, which eventually arrived to assist overwhelmed police, how security agencies shared information prior to the attack, and whether the Capitol Police Council command structure , which includes the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms contributed to the failures.
Tuesday’s hearing is the first of at least two public reviews of what went wrong that day as Senate committees undertake a joint investigation into the security failures. A second hearing, which is expected to take place in the coming weeks, will examine the response from the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, who temporarily replaced Sund, apologized last month for failing to prepare despite warnings that white supremacists and far-right groups were targeting the Congress.
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