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Watchdog report pans Capitol Police over Jan. 6 threat sharing

The agency says it is taking steps to implement the recommendation from the Government Accountability Office

Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger speaks with the media in January 2022 after testifying at a Senate hearing about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.
Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger speaks with the media in January 2022 after testifying at a Senate hearing about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol Police and other federal entities fell short of consistently sharing threat information in the lead-up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a federal watchdog said in a report released Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Office report states Capitol Police did identify potential violence, but the agency failed to internally share pertinent threat information throughout the agency, which led to “some officers, agents and intelligence staff not having complete information.”

“Capitol Police did not include all relevant threat information from other agencies in its threat products developed for January 6,” according to the report.

The federal watchdog made 10 recommendations to five different entities. That included a recommendation for the chief of the Capitol Police to set up policies for sharing “threat-related information agency-wide.” The agency, in a letter included in the report, responded in December that it is taking steps to implement the recommendation.

The recommendations follow more than two years of increased attention and funding for the Capitol Police in the wake of the attack.

A joint Senate committee report released months after the attack concluded that the agency’s intelligence components did not communicate the full range of the threat information.

The House select committee that investigated the attack, in its final report released in December, called for additional oversight of the police department “as it improves its planning, training, equipping, and intelligence processes and practices its critical incident response protocols, both internally and with law enforcement partners.”

And the current Capitol Police chief, J. Thomas Manger, acknowledged at a Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing in December that the department before the attack had “systemic deficiencies” in intelligence gathering and security planning, which he has tried to fix.

The GAO report also knocked the FBI’s actions, saying that the agency did not follow policies for processing certain tips. In turn, some tips were not developed into reports that could have been shared, according to the federal watchdog.

“While the FBI identified and shared threat information, it did not process certain referrals from social media platforms according to policies and procedures and, as a result, it failed to share critical information with all relevant partners,” according to the report.

FBI officials said the agency’s Washington Field Office, as of Jan. 6, 2021, had been tracking 18 domestic terrorism subjects who might travel to the Washington, D.C., area, according to the watchdog report.

But, in response to the report, the FBI said it was not aware of “actionable intelligence” that the Capitol would be subject to a mob attack, even if the agency planned for a response to possible violence on Jan. 6.

The agency, in a letter included in the report, said it continues to be “introspective regarding its role” in intelligence sharing when it comes to Jan. 6.

“Our goal is always to disrupt and stay ahead of the threat, and we are constantly trying to learn and evaluate what we could have done better or differently, this is especially true of the attack on the Capitol,” wrote Larissa Knapp, executive assistant director of the agency’s National Security Branch.

In one of its recommendations for the agency, the federal watchdog said the FBI director should assess why personnel “did not process information related to the events of January 6 according to policy.”

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