Senate’s Jan 6 report blasts missed warning signs: ‘Planned in plain sight’

Jan 6 commitee previously faulted Trump White House for knowing violence was likely

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 27 June 2023 17:02 BST
Jan 6 committee votes to recommend criminal charges against Donald Trump

A new report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee offers a withering look at the inability of America’s intelligence agencies to guard against insurrection following the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The report was finally released this week, more than two years after hundreds of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol and prevented, for several hours, the certification of the 2020 election while lawmakers hid in fear for their lives. Helmed by Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, the committee spent months investigating a fundamental question that has remained despite months of hearings in the House last year by the select committee to investigate the attack on the Capitol: Why DC-area law enforcement, including US Capitol Police, were caught so off-guard by the violence.

The answer to that question seems to be a refusal by officials at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) to take seriously social media posts that very explicitly laid out what to expect on the day of the attack.

Mr Peters faulted the two agencies specifically in his report for failing to “sound the alarm and share critical intelligence information that could have helped law enforcement better prepare for the events of January 6th.”

“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,” he concluded in a statement on Tuesday.

As the attack occurred, a vastly outnumbered Capitol Police force battled rioters for hours, suffering dozens of injuries, before finally being reinforced by neighbouring agencies. The Trump White House was faulted for not calling in the National Guard sooner to respond to the attack.

According to the committee’s findings, those two federal agencies did not follow their own guidelines on the use of “open-source intelligence”: i.e., the use of public information to detect and analyse threats.

“[T]he Committee obtained internal emails from I&A where – even after rioters breached the Capitol – analysts had difficulty deciding whether online posts calling for violence at the Capitol indicated that there was a reportable threat,” the committee stated.

“What was shocking is that this attack was essentially planned in plain sight in social media,” Mr Peters told NBC News. “And yet it seemed as if our intelligence agencies completely dropped the ball."

The report’s release follows the work of the House select committee to investigate January 6; that bipartisan panel released a separate report last year which determined that unlike the FBI and I&A, senior officials at the White House such as chief of staff Mark Meadows were taking that “open-source intelligence”, aka the very numerous threats and calls for an insurrection that were prevalent on right-wing social media in the days leading up to the attack.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide working under Mr Meadows, testified to the committee last year that her boss fretted openly that the day of the attack would be “real, real bad” on January 6 in the days immediately leading up to the insurrection.

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