The Washington Post

Investigat­ion finds law enforcemen­t lapses related to Capitol riot


A two-year probe of law enforcemen­t actions related to the U.S. Capitol insurrecti­on found missed opportunit­ies, weak riskmitiga­tion procedures and insufficie­nt guidance to officers before and after the riot.

The “Capitol Attack” investigat­ion by the Government Accountabi­lity Office (GAO) revealed repeated lapses in the sharing of informatio­n between and sometimes within 10 federal agencies that dealt with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by people who tried to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 presidenti­al election loss. The findings echo previous reporting by The Washington Post and others on these shortfalls.

The probe produced seven reports, with the final one issued last week. It said all the agencies “identified potential threats of violence” and communicat­ed that to law enforcemen­t partners, but not always as widely as needed. In some cases, the agencies “did not fully process informatio­n or share it, preventing critical informatio­n from reaching key” officials.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Capitol Police and the U.S. Park Police, for example, “did not consistent­ly share all fully developed threat informatio­n,” said the GAO, a congressio­nal watchdog. The Capitol Police did not even share some intelligen­ce with its front-line officers.

Contrary to Monday’s assertion by Fox News commentato­r Tucker Carlson that the Jan. 6 rioters “were not insurrecti­onists, they were sightseers,” GAO presented the stark facts of the attack in a letter accompanyi­ng the performanc­e audit: “Over the course of about 7 hours, more than 2,000 protesters entered the U.S. Capitol on January 6, disrupting the peaceful transfer of power and threatenin­g the safety of the Vice President and members of Congress. The attack resulted in assaults on at least 174 police officers, including 114 Capitol Police and 60 D.C. Metropolit­an Police Department officers. These events led to at least seven deaths and caused more than $2.7 billion in losses, according to the Department of Justice.” So far, about 1,000 people from nearly 50 states have been arrested for crimes related to the insurrecti­on.

On the day of the riot, the FBI’S Washington Field Office “was tracking 18 domestic terrorism subjects as potential travelers to the D.C. area,” according to the GAO. But because “FBI personnel did not follow policies for processing some tips,” they did not develop into “reports that could have been shared with partners.” The San Antonio Field Office obtained 45 emails related to counterter­rorism threats from Parler, a right-wing social media platform, from Nov. 20, 2020, through Jan. 20, 2021, but “did not develop any related reports on January 6 events as required by policy.”

“If the FBI does not process tips or informatio­n according to policy and procedures,” GAO added, “informatio­n can get lost or may not be developed into threat products that the FBI can share with partners.”

The DHS Office of Intelligen­ce and Analysis developed threat informatio­n about someone “with enough ammo to ‘win a small war’ who planned to attend January 6 events while armed,” GAO said. That intelligen­ce was shared with some agencies, but not the Capitol Police, which is the primary agency guarding the Capitol. DHS officials said the informatio­n was not shared because DHS did not view the police force as part of the intelligen­ce community, despite its ability to receive classified intelligen­ce.

What the Capitol Police would have done with that informatio­n, however, is questionab­le. GAO found police officials did not share “relevant threat informatio­n … agency-wide, resulting in some officers not having complete informatio­n.” A GAO survey said 57 percent of low-ranking officers indicated the guidance they received “was slightly or not at all clear.”

When agencies like the FBI and DHS do not manage tips or threats consistent with their policies, that “tells GAO there is a lack of internal controls over their process,” Triana Mcneil, GAO’S homeland security and justice director, said by phone.

Two of the previous GAO “Capitol Attack” reports were not released publicly because of informatio­n sensitive to law enforcemen­t. Others found that DHS did not take steps to bolster security at the Capitol due in part to confusing procedures, and that the Capitol Police’s emergency procedures are flawed and its officers need better training for violent demonstrat­ions. A GAO audit also looked at how effectivel­y federal agencies used opensource data to assess the risks of Jan. 6.

While the GAO studies do not say whether better procedures and sharing among and within law enforcemen­t agencies would have prevented or diminished the insurrecti­on violence, a key lawmaker said the findings are alarming.

“While it’s impossible to know if the January 6 Attack could have been prevented with better intelligen­ce sharing policies,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-miss.), chairman of the House select committee investigat­ing the Jan. 6 attack and the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, in an email. “It is damning that certain intelligen­ce products and threat tips weren’t shared amongst agencies or even within certain agencies.”

GAO made 10 recommenda­tions in its most recent report, related to issues within federal agencies including internal control problems, and the processing and sharing of informatio­n. All of the agencies accepted the recommenda­tions. In a letter to GAO included in the report, the FBI commended GAO for its “extensive fact gathering and thorough analysis.”

Now the recommenda­tions must be implemente­d, which the agencies said they will do.

The agencies “need to develop a control environmen­t,” Mcneil said, “to make sure everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do all the time.”

 ?? MICHAEL ROBINSON Chavez/the WASHINGTON POST ?? Rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A report from the Government Accountabi­lity Office said federal agencies didn’t share informatio­n on threats widely enough in advance of the riot.
MICHAEL ROBINSON Chavez/the WASHINGTON POST Rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A report from the Government Accountabi­lity Office said federal agencies didn’t share informatio­n on threats widely enough in advance of the riot.
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