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Capitol Defenders Cite Missed Intel    02/24 06:19

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Missed intelligence was to blame for the outmanned 
Capitol defenders' failure to anticipate the violent mob that invaded the 
iconic building and halted certification of the presidential election on Jan. 
6, the officials who were in charge of security that day said in their first 
public testimony on the insurrection.

   The officials, including the former chief of the Capitol Police, pointed 
their fingers at various federal agencies --- and each other --- for their 
failure to defend the building as supporters of then-President Donald Trump 
overwhelmed security barriers, broke windows and doors and sent lawmakers 
fleeing from the House and Senate chambers. Five people died as a result of the 
riot, including a Capitol Police officer and a woman who was shot as she tried 
to enter the House chamber with lawmakers still inside.

   Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned under pressure 
immediately after the attack, and the other officials said Tuesday they had 
expected the protests to be similar to two pro-Trump events in late 2020 that 
were far less violent. Sund said he hadn't seen an FBI field office report that 
warned of potential violence citing online posts about a "war."

   Sund described a scene as the mob arrived at the perimeter that was "like 
nothing" he had seen in his 30 years of policing and argued that the 
insurrection was not the result of poor planning by Capitol Police but of 
failures across the board.

   "No single civilian law enforcement agency -- and certainly not the USCP -- 
is trained and equipped to repel, without significant military or other law 
enforcement assistance, an insurrection of thousands of armed, violent, and 
coordinated individuals focused on breaching a building at all costs," he 
testified.

   The hearing was the first of many examinations of what happened that day, 
coming almost seven weeks after the attack and over a week after the Senate 
voted to acquit Trump of inciting the insurrection by telling his supporters to 
"fight like hell" to overturn his election defeat. Fencing and National Guard 
troops still surround the Capitol in a wide perimeter, cutting off streets and 
sidewalks that are normally full of cars, pedestrians and tourists.

   The joint hearing, part of an investigation by two Senate committees, was 
the first time the officials testified publicly about the events of Jan. 6. In 
addition to Sund, former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, former House 
Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for 
the Metropolitan Police Department, testified.

   Irving and Stenger also resigned under pressure immediately after the deadly 
attack. They were Sund's supervisors and in charge of security for the House 
and Senate.

   "We must have the facts, and the answers are in this room," Senate Rules 
Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar said at the beginning of the hearing. The 
Rules panel is conducting the joint probe with the Senate Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs Committee.

   Even after the hearing, much still remains unknown about what happened 
before and during the assault. How much did law enforcement agencies know about 
plans for violence that day, many of which were public? And how could the 
Capitol Police have been so ill-prepared for a violent insurrection that was 
organized online?

   Sund told the lawmakers that he didn't know then that his officers had 
received a report from the FBI's field office in Norfolk, Virginia, that 
forecast, in detail, the chances that extremists could bring "war" to 
Washington the following day. The head of the FBI's office in Washington has 
said that once he received the Jan. 5 warning, the information was quickly 
shared with other law enforcement agencies through a joint terrorism task force.

   Sund said Tuesday that an officer on the task force had received that memo 
and forwarded it to a sergeant working on intelligence for the Capitol Police 
but that the information was not sent on to other supervisors.

   "How could you not get that vital intelligence?" asked Senate Homeland 
Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., who said the failure of the report to reach the 
chief was clearly a major problem.

   "That information would have been helpful," Sund acknowledged.

   Even without the intelligence, there were clear signs that violence was a 
possibility on Jan. 6. Far-right social media users openly hinted for weeks 
that chaos would erupt at the U.S. Capitol while Congress convened to certify 
the election results.

   Sund said he did see an intelligence report created within his own 
department warning that Congress could be targeted on Jan. 6. But he said that 
report assessed the probability of civil disobedience or arrests, based on the 
information they had, as "remote" to "improbable" for the groups expected to 
demonstrate.

   Contee, the acting city police chief, also suggested that no one had flagged 
the FBI information from Norfolk, Virginia, which he said came in the form of 
an email. He said he would have expected that kind of intelligence "would 
warrant a phone call or something. "

   Sund and Irving disagreed on when the National Guard was called and on 
requests for the guard beforehand. Sund said he spoke to both Stenger and 
Irving about requesting the National Guard in the days before the riot, and 
that Irving said he was concerned about the "optics" of having them present. 
Irving denied that, saying Sund's account was "categorically false."

   "We all agreed the intelligence did not support the troops and collectively 
decided to let it go," Stenger said.

   After smashing through the barriers at the perimeter, the invaders engaged 
in hand-to-hand combat with police officers, injuring dozens of them, and broke 
into the building.

   Once the violence had begun, Sund and Irving also disagreed on when the 
National Guard was requested --- Sund said he requested it at 1:09 p.m., but 
Irving denied receiving a call at that time.

   Contee said he was "stunned" over the delayed response. He said Sund was 
pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting 
rapidly escalated. Police officers "were out there literally fighting for their 
lives" but the officials appeared to be going through a "check the boxes" 
exercise, he said.

   Pentagon officials, who will be invited to testify before the committee at a 
second hearing next week, have said it took time to put the troops in position, 
and there was not enough contingency planning in advance. They said they 
offered the assistance beforehand but were turned down.

   Klobuchar said after the hearing that the next police chief should have 
greater ability to make decisions both leading up to and during a crisis, and 
the Rules panel could consider such legislation once the investigation is 
completed. The current structure "clearly needs some reform," she said.

   The hearing Tuesday was the first of several this week examining what went 
wrong Jan. 6. A House subcommittee will examine damage to the Capitol on 
Wednesday and will hear testimony from current security officials, including 
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, on Thursday. Next week, the 
Senate panels will invite officials from the Pentagon, FBI and Homeland 
Security Department.

   In prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing on damage to the 
Capitol, Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton and the curator of the House 
of Representatives, Farar Elliott, describe damage to statues and paintings and 
quick thinking by staff as the rioting was underway --- including one aide who 
secured the House's 1819 silver inkstand, the oldest object in the chamber.

   Congress is also considering a bipartisan, independent commission, and 
multiple congressional committees have said they will look at different aspects 
of the siege. Federal law enforcement has arrested more than 230 people who 
were accused of being involved in the attack, and attorney general nominee 
Merrick Garland said in his confirmation hearing Monday that investigating the 
riot would be a priority.

 
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