WASHINGTON — Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security Committee published a report on Tuesday concluding that federal law enforcement agencies failed to properly analyze a wide range of intelligence that showed the potential for violence on January 6, 2021.
The report, written by committee chair Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and staff, provides specific examples of threats of violence and plans for an attack on the Capitol that were collected by agencies in the run-up to January. . 6, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A). The report concludes that the agencies consistently downplayed the potential for violence and, as a result, the government failed to prepare the proper security apparatus for Washington, DC, that day.
«At a fundamental level, the agencies failed to fulfill their mission and connect the public and nonpublic information they received,» the report says, pointing to internal emails and documents that «demonstrate the breadth and severity of the threats these agencies received in relation to January 6th».
As an example, on January 2, 2021, four days before the riot at the Capitol, the social media platform Parler sent a post from a user on its site to the FBI that read: “[t]Theirs is not a rally and it is no longer a protest. This is a final position where we are drawing the red line on Capitol Hill. […] don’t be surprised if we take the #capital [sic] building.»
That post was one of many alluding to the potential for violence before January 6. But the report found that despite the violent rhetoric online, the FBI and I&A continued to downplay the threat and instead informed the US Capitol Police and Washington, DC. , Metropolitan Police force to prepare for a normal political rally.
“What was shocking is that this attack was essentially planned in plain sight on social media,” Peters said in an interview, “and yet it seemed like our intelligence agencies completely dropped the ball.”
An internal email from the FBI’s Washington Field Office (WFO), cited in the report, described a collection of online threats, including a long list of videos, social media posts, and message board activity detailing plans for an attack on Washington, but the email ultimately concluded that the threats were isolated and not evidence of a serious problem.
“FBI WFO does not have any information to suggest that these events will involve anything more than [First Amendment] protected activity,” the email said, adding that the FBI had “not identified any credible or verified threats to activities associated with January 6, 2021.”
According to the report, similar streams of intelligence continued to flood federal agencies tasked with policing violent activity. But even on the morning of January 6, when huge crowds were already beginning to gather on the National Mall, a senior surveillance officer at the DHS National Operations Center wrote: “[t]there are no signs of civil disobedience here.”
In fact, the report concludes that intelligence analysts were more concerned, not that Trump supporters on the National Mall would become a direct threat to members of Congress, but that violence could break out between the crowd and counter-protesters, including left-wing groups like anti-fascist The report also argues that the FBI focused on preventing attacks by lone extremists, while not doing enough to ensure that law enforcement was adequately prepared given the volume of online threats.
“The threats to the Capitol on January 6 were not made solely in private conversations that required undercover investigative tactics by law enforcement to detect them,” the report states. «Rather, these threats were made openly, often in publicly available social media posts, and the FBI and I&A were aware of them.»
The FBI «is fairly restricted from taking investigative or enforcement action against an individual simply on the basis of First Amendment-protected speech,» the report continues. “However, the FBI also has an obligation to consider the broader threat landscape, including social media and calls for violence online when there is a significant increase in threats that may indicate a growing danger of violence.”
In total, the report reveals that the FBI only issued two intelligence reports related to the potential for violence on January 6. One originated from the New Orleans field office on January 5 and another later that night from the Norfolk field office. Both reports were limited in scope and were not widely distributed by the FBI, according to the report, and neither FBI headquarters nor the Washington Field Office issued their own reports prior to the attack.
The intelligence reports that were issued dealt with threats of political extremism across the country and did not address specific threats to Washington or the Capitol itself.
Peters compared obvious intelligence mistakes to mistakes made in the lead up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I think the failure was largely a failure of the imagination, to see the threats that the Capitol could be breached as credible, despite the fact that the threats were shared publicly and in such high volume across a variety of media. shapes,” Peters said. «And I think the failure in many ways echoes the findings of the 9/11 Commission, which identified similar failures to take warnings seriously.»
The Senate report comes as the Justice Department’s inspector general continues his own investigation into the failures of the FBI and the Justice Department before the attack on the Capitol.
While Tuesday’s report goes into great detail about the lack of preparation by the various security and law enforcement agencies, it does not clear former President Donald Trump for his role in fueling the violence that occurred that day. He echoes the House January 6 Committee’s conclusion that Trump was largely to blame for the events of that day, saying his false claims about the 2020 election results, along with his tweet by inviting supporters to Washington, they «directly contributed to this attack.»
«But,» the report’s conclusion read, «the fact is that the federal agencies charged with preventing domestic terrorism and disseminating intelligence, namely the FBI and I&A, did not sound the alarm, and much of the violence that followed on January 6 could have been prevented if they had.”
Although the January 6 committee had a dedicated team of staff investigating the failures of federal authorities to prepare for the attack on the Capitol, the panel’s executive summary and its final report avoided the kind of direct criticism of law enforcement. appearing in the Homeland Senate on Tuesday. Safety committee report. As NBC News first reported in November, staff at the January 6 Committee investigating law enforcement failures were told the panel’s report would focus on Trump, leaving much of their work on the fitting room. However, the committee released transcripts of the testimony they collected, much of which is cited in the Senate Homeland Security Committee report.
The report also outlines a long list of recommendations to avoid similar failures in the future. The committee calls on DHS and the FBI to complete full post-reviews of their failures in the lead up to January 6 and to improve the intelligence analysis and dissemination process. The report also calls for Congressional certification of future presidential elections to be declared Special Homeland Security Events, which would mobilize law enforcement and provide special security enhancements.