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Senators from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee became the latest on Tuesday to report U.S. Capitol security failures on January 6, alleging that federal law enforcement agencies had downplayed numerous tips threatening violence ahead of the 2020 presidential election certification.
In a 106-page report by the committee titled “Planned in Plain Sight,” a majority of the staff said the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) were aware of online posts — as early as December 2020 — that posed threats to Capitol Hill that day, yet failed to sound the alarm with other law enforcement.
“My report shows there was a shocking failure of imagination from these intelligence agencies to take these threats seriously, and there is no question that their failures to effectively analyze and share the threat information contributed to the failures to prevent and respond to the horrific attack that unfolded at the Capitol,” committee Chairman Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) said in a news release.
The report comes over two and a half years after the event that involved approximately 2,000 people, some of whom overturned barricades, clashed with police, and stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the January 2021 transfer of presidential power.
Officials estimate about 800 people out of the massive crowd breached the Capitol grounds and building, leaving more than 1,000 people charged with crimes linked to the event — including Proud Boys and Oath Keepers members.
Peters and other Senate committee members said federal law enforcement repeatedly downplayed threat levels, “struggled” to monitor open-source intelligence, including social media, and failed to coordinate frontline security personnel prepared to defend the Capitol.
On December 18, 2020 — four days after the Electoral College declared that President Joe Biden had won the 2020 election — former President Donald Trump called for supporters to protest the validity of several states’ election results before the January 6, 2021, Congressional vote count.
Before the rally, Trump asked former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to position National Guard troops in Washington to protect his supporters, but requests to use the National Guard to protect Congress were reportedly turned down by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
According to the report, FBI authorities received a tip around the same time the Proud Boys planned to be in Washington, D.C. that said, “[t]heir plan is to literally kill people” and to “Please please take this tip seriously and investigate further.” Other online posts the FBI became aware of included calls for armed violence and instructions for people to bring “food and guns.”
On January 3, the FBI became aware of posts saying, “If they don’t listen to our words, they can feel our lead. Come armed”; plans to “set up ‘armed encampment’ on the [National] Mall”; and a tip about “a TikTok video with someone holding a gun saying ‘storm the Capitol on January 6th,” according to the Senate report.
Two days before the protest took place, the report said Justice Department officials noted multiple concerning posts, including “[c]alls to occupy federal buildings,” discussions of “invading the capitol building,” and individuals “arm[ing] themselves … to engage in political violence at the event.”
DHS officials also reportedly became “increasingly” aware of violent threats weeks before January 6.
Between late December 2020 and the morning of the protest, I&A analysts reportedly identified comments referencing the use of weapons and targeting Capitol law enforcement and organizers in Virginia plotting to gather “thousands of armed patriots” to drive to D.C. together. On January 2, the analysts messaged each other, saying they “feel like people are actually going to try and hurt politicians. Jan 6th is gonna be crazy,” and “[l]ots of discussions of coming armed to D.C.”
But despite those alleged warning signs, the report documents a Senior Watch Officer at the DHS National Operations Center wrote at 8:57 am on January 6th that “[t]here is no indication of civil disobedience.”
Earlier this year, Roger Root, attorney for Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola, who was convicted on charges related to January 6, alleged at least 40 undercover informants with various law enforcement agencies engaged in surveillance work that day.
Federal authorities admitted that there were 8 FBI Confidential Human Sources, according to a court filing, which also alleged DCMetro Police had at least 13 undercover plain-clothes agents among the Proud Boys, and some 19 informants belonged to Homeland Security Investigations, an agency under DHS.
A DHS spokesperson told The Daily Wire that the agency has been conducting a “comprehensive organizational review” of its intelligence office, which “will soon be developing recommendations for how [the office] can better meet the homeland security threats of today and tomorrow.”
FBI officials told The Daily Wire the bureau’s “goal is to disrupt and stay ahead of any threats.”
“We are constantly trying to learn and evaluate what we can do better or differently, and this is especially true of the attack on the U.S. Capitol,” adding the FBI set up command posts for assistance and worked closely with “law enforcement partners — including the U.S. Capitol Police — in advance of January 6 and on that day to share information in real time.”