Security officials cast blame for January 6 failures at US Capitol

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AP) — Testifying for the first time about the insurrection at the US Capitol, former security officials blamed faulty intelligence for their disastrous failure to anticipate the violent intentions of the mob that invaded the building and interrupted the certification of the presidential election.

The officials, including the former chief of the Capitol police, are blaming other federal agencies — and each other — for their failure to defend the building as supporters of then-President Donald Trump overwhelmed security barriers, breaking windows and doors and sending lawmakers fleeing from the House and Senate chambers. They say they expected the protests to be similar to two pro-Trump events in late 2020 that were far less violent.

Former Capitol police Chief Steven Sund described a scene that was “like nothing” he had seen in his 30 years of policing.

“When the group arrived at the perimeter they did not act like any group of protesters I had ever seen,” the ousted chief said, arguing that the insurrection was not the result of poor planning but of failures across the board from many agencies and officials.

“No single civilian law enforcement agency – and certainly not the USCP [United States Capitol Police] – is trained and equipped to repel, without significant military or other law enforcement assistance, an insurrection of thousands of armed, violent, and coordinated individuals focused on breaching a building at all costs,” Sund said.

The joint hearing, part of an investigation into happennings on January 6 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules Committee, is the first time the officials have testified publicly about the events of that day. In addition to Sund, former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving and Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, are testifying.

Sund, Irving and Stenger resigned under pressure immediately after the deadly attack.

“We must have the facts, and the answers are in this room,” Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar said at the beginning of the hearing.

Much remains unknown about what happened before and during the assault. How much did law enforcement agencies know about plans for violence that day, many of which were public? How did the agencies share that information with each other? And, how could the Capitol police have been so ill-prepared for a violent insurrection that was organised online?

Sund told the lawmakers that he learnt, only after the attack, that his officers had received a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) field office in Norfolk, Virginia, that forecast, in detail, the chances that extremists could commit “war” in Washington the following day. The head of the FBI’s office in Washington has said that once he received the January 5 warning, the information was quickly shared with other law enforcement agencies through the joint terrorism task force.

Sund said yesterday that an officer on the task force had received that memo and forwarded it to a sergeant working on intelligence for the Capitol police but that the information was not put forward to any other supervisors. Sund said he wasn’t aware of it.

Senate Homeland Chairman Gary Peters, D-Michigan, said the failure of the intelligence report to reach the chief was clearly a major problem. “How could you not get that vital intelligence?” he asked.

“That information would have been helpful,” Sund replied.

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