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Senate report details Capitol Police failures leading up to Jan. 6

Intelligence left out crucial information in special assessments

A joint Senate committee report has found that the Capitol Police intelligence units failed to communicate the full scope of the threat information they had and that the department was not adequately prepared to prevent or respond to a looming security threat on Jan. 6, which contributed to the breaching of the Capitol.

The bipartisan report released by the top Republican and Democrat on both the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Rules and Administration Committee offers a set of findings over the course of more than 100 pages that describes a department falling short of its mission to protect the legislative branch.

The Capitol Police’s lead intelligence unit — the Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division, which was overseen by acting Chief Yogananda Pittman leading up to and including the mob attack on Jan. 6 — was aware of the potential for violence in the days and weeks ahead of the pro-Donald Trump insurrection and obtained information from several sources about violent threats targeting Congress’ joint session to tabulate the electoral votes and against the Capitol itself.

Despite this knowledge, the intelligence division “failed to fully incorporate this information into all of its internal assessments about January 6 and the Joint Session. As a result, critical information regarding threats of violence was not shared with USCP’s own officers and other law enforcement partners,” the report states.

This disconnect is highlighted by comparing the intelligence division’s “special event” assessments from December for the joint session.

The Dec. 16 special assessment indicated that the department was aware of two planned protests and “NO social media indications for specific threats or concerning comments directed at the Joint Session of Congress.” It also said “the threat of disruptive actions or violence cannot be ruled out.” The assessment’s overall conclusion was the following: “At this time there are no specific known threats related to the Joint Session of Congress — Electoral College Vote Certification.”

In the days that followed, the intelligence unit learned more about the increasing chance that there would be armed protestors and likely violence. President Donald Trump’s tweet promoting a big protest on Jan. 6 that “will be wild” and a “Million MAGA tweet” were among social media posts the unit was aware of.

The intelligence unit on Dec. 21 issued a report about a pro-Trump blog, thedonald.win, that referenced tunnels used by lawmakers in the Capitol complex. The report also included a map of the Capitol campus from the blog and noted that several comments on the blog “promote confronting members of Congress and carrying firearms during the protest.”

The report flagged some of the comments on the blog, including one that said, “Bring guns. It’s now or never.”

Pittman told the committees that this Dec. 21 report was sent only to “command staff,” which includes deputy chiefs and assistant chiefs.

On Dec. 22, the intelligence division obtained troubling information about Sam Andrews, a former leader of the Missouri branch of the far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers, who was reported to be encouraging “armed conflict during the protest” on Jan. 6.

The next day, the unit followed up on a call from a private citizen who warned of posts on Twitter of people who intended to bring weapons to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

And then the unit got an email from an intelligence analyst at the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency regarding a threat report called “User in Far-Right Chat group threatens to ‘shoot and kill’ counter protestors.” The email from the analyst linked to threads that included “threats towards the US Congress and elected officials.”

Even with all this information, the Capitol Police’s intelligence unit issued a Dec. 23 special assessment that concluded there was “no information regarding specific disruptions or acts of civil disobedience targeting this function.”

“Despite IICD’s knowledge about the growing threat of violence on January 6, the December 23 Special Assessment’s overall analysis read identical to the December 16 version,” the Senate report said.

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The report did mention that protestors had indicated that they planned to bring arms, but there was no mention of the Dec. 21 intelligence report concerning the pro-Trump blog or access to tunnels near the Capitol. Pittman could not explain why the new, pertinent information didn’t make its way into the Dec. 23 special assessment.

“I cannot go into detail without having further discussions with those individuals [who wrote the reports]. I think that [at] U.S. Capitol Police, my focus was always on the Jan. 3 and final assessment,” Pittman told the committees. “However, … we know that there are several lessons to be learned for making sure that there is not conflicting information, regardless of which version of the assessment is distributed.”

The report recommends that the department should consolidate all its intelligence components into one Intelligence Bureau led by a civilian intelligence director who reports to an assistant chief for protective and intelligence operations. Recommendations also include proper training and staffing levels for analysts and development of procedures to effectively communicate intelligence around the department.

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund did not prepare a departmentwide operational plan for the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress. Pittman told the committees that the Capitol Police creates departmentwide plans for large events. When Pittman was asked by the committees why a plan wasn’t created, she said it would have been up to Sund to have operational commanders create one and that she could not explain why Sund had decided against it.

The committees’ report notes that a departmentwide operational plan should have detailed the number of sworn officers on duty for the joint session, where they would be positioned and the command-and-control plan.

Another issue that was underscored by the lack of a comprehensive plan was the fact that Pittman did not know exactly where officers were deployed on Jan 6.

“Ms. Pittman acknowledged that she did not know where officers were posted throughout the day, aside from that they were ‘deployed throughout the campus,’” the report said. “USCP has no official record listing the exact number of sworn officers that were posted in or around the Capitol Building when those positions were attacked.”

The report recommends the USCP require a departmentwide operational plan for special events.

“As a consumer of federal intelligence, the Department leadership agrees improvements are needed specific to intelligence analysis and dissemination. Law enforcement agencies across the country rely on intelligence, and the quality of that intelligence can mean the difference between life and death,” the Capitol Police said in a statement.

“The USCP also acknowledges it must improve how it collects and shares intelligence with its own officers and stakeholders and has made significant changes since the attack on January 6. The Department has also made major changes to its now Department-wide operations planning processes, even recently bringing on a National Special Security Event planning and coordination expert from the United States Secret Service.”

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