WASHINGTON – A new Senate report on the Jan. 6 insurrection found U.S. intelligence officials failed to warn of potential violence at the U.S. Capitol, leaving law enforcement unprepared to contend with a violent mob that wanted to overturn the 2020 election.
The report also pointed to delays in getting National Guard support amid the attack but stopped short of calling for a permanent assignment at the Capitol – a prospect criticized by lawmakers of both parties who don't want to militarize a public institution.
"Capitol Hill police were put in an impossible situation," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. "Without adequate intelligence, training and equipment, they didn't have the tools they needed to protect the Capitol. That's the hard truth."
The report published Tuesday by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Rules committees offers a pointed assessment of security and intelligence failures surrounding the attack by former President Donald Trump's supporters. The panels held oversight hearings, reviewed thousands of documents and received written statements from 50 Capitol Police officers as part of an investigation that began earlier this year.
The bipartisan group of senators noted that seven people "ultimately lost their lives" because of the attack, including an officer who died from natural causes the day after being sprayed with chemicals by rioters and two officers who died by suicide in the following days.
The report also found:
Neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security issued formal intelligence bulletins or threat assessments despite repeated online threats, including one flagged by the FBI that called on people to "go there ready for war."
FBI and DHS officials did not believe the online posts were credible and said most of the rhetoric was “First Amendment protected speech."
The Capitol Police Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division had information about potential violence, including plots to breach the Capitol and the online sharing of its tunnel maps. Those officials did not share all of their intelligence with leadership and rank-and-file officers, leaving the department ill-prepared for Jan. 6.
The division was also inconsistent in its view of the threat. A Jan. 3 special assessment indicated that protesters could become violent and target Congress. In the following days, daily intelligence reports prepared without supervisory review ranked the likelihood of civil disobedience from “remote” to “improbable.”
Capitol Police were not adequately trained to respond to civil disturbances and were not uniformly provided shields, gas masks and other equipment.
Capitol Police didn’t have a comprehensive staffing plan, and their command structure broke down because of problems with radio communications with front-line officers. During the attack, an officer recalled hearing a lieutenant repeatedly ask over the radio, “Does anybody have a plan?”
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund never formally asked the Capitol Police Board, comprised of the Senate sergeant-at-arms, the House sergeant-at-arms and the architect of the Capitol, to make the request for National Guard assistance before Jan. 6. Sund and the other officials have all been replaced since the attack.
Defense Department officials said they didn’t get a formal request for the National Guard until 2:30 p.m., although District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser called them an hour earlier inquiring about requests. While the acting secretary of defense mobilized the troops at 3:04 p.m., they spent hours planning their mission and deployed shortly after 5 p.m.
"We had planned for the possibility of violence, the possibility of some people being armed, not the possibility of a coordinated military style attack involving thousands against the Capitol," Sund told the committee.
Recommendations to prevent another breach
The report recommends a slew of policy changes aimed at preventing another breach, including better training and equipment for Capitol Police and departmentwide plans for major events. It suggests granting the U.S. Capitol Police chief authority to request National Guard support – something Sund couldn't do under the current process, even during the attack.
Rather than push for a permanent National Guard force assigned to protect the Capitol, senators called for Capitol Police to create a permanent division of officers to respond to civil disturbances with “hard” gear and less-than-lethal munitions. They also recommended the department consolidate its three intelligence units into one.
Other proposed measures include a review of how to handle intelligence from social media and other open sources, enhanced communication between the National Guard and Defense Department, and joint training exercises among law enforcement in the D.C. region.
Although bipartisan, the new report is unlikely to heal the divisions surrounding the attack. The Senate inquiry notably did not examine the motivation for the attack and the possible role of Trump and others who peddled misinformation about the November election in the weeks leading up to the certification of the Electoral College votes.
The findings also come after Senate Republicans blocked a vote on an independent commission to further investigate the insurrection. Democrats who chair the two committees renewed their calls for a separate commission, saying the new report addresses only one piece of the puzzle and leaves other questions unresolved.
"It does not answer some of the bigger questions we need to face as a country and a democracy," said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Jan. 6 attack: Senate committee recommends policy, agency changes