By Zachary Cohen, Whitney Wild and Ellie Kaufman, CNN
US Capitol Police’s main intelligence unit “was aware of the potential for violence” ahead of the January 6 US Capitol attack but failed to share critical threat information with the department’s own officers and other law enforcement partners, a new Senate report says.
Specifically, the report notes that the lead USCP intelligence division began gathering information about events planned for January 6 weeks ahead of time and knew about social media posts calling for violence, “including a plot to breach the Capitol, the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex’s tunnel systems, and other specific threats of violence.”
But the unit “did not convey the full scope of known information to USCP leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners,” the report adds, meaning critical information was not shared with key players involved in security planning for January 6, leaving them unprepared for the ensuing attack.
The inquiry also determined that USCP’s “decentralized” intelligence operation meant some people saw these warnings while other officials were left in the dark.
That was just one of the many security breakdowns detailed in the new report compiled by the Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees, which adds an authoritative emphasis to previous evidence of massive intelligence failures, critical miscommunications and unheeded warnings that ultimately led to the chaotic response on January 6.
However, the report’s narrow scope also underscores the limits of a bipartisan, congressional investigation.
While the evidence and interviews were gathered over months from bipartisan staff and members on two committees, the information pertained almost entirely to the security and intelligence shortcomings that led to that day, not focusing on why individuals would have come to the Capitol in the first place and former President Donald Trump’s role.
“It was limited in scope to have concrete recommendations that could be provided to the Capitol Police as well as other federal agencies to make sure we never see an attack on the capitol like we saw,” Sen. Gary Peters, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN Tuesday.
“We looked at intelligence agencies that despite the fact this was happening real-time on social media, widely known it would be a very likely violent crowd coming to Washington, D.C. They did not put out intelligence warnings so that would have informed local officials as to how to adequately prepare,” the Michigan Democrat added.
New details about communication among rioters
While the Senate report reveals new details about the scope of intelligence sharing breakdowns that occurred prior to January 6, it also makes clear that even when top officials could come together and analyze the information available, there was no consensus on what it meant.
Intelligence officials were unable to tie together a swirl of troubling internet chatter leading up to the riot and a demonstrated a reliance on using past, non-violent Trump rallies in security planning, the report shows
Trump supporters posted plenty of violent threats and dangerous assertions on the internet in the run-up to January 6. The report said these were found on “message boards, social media, memes, or hashtags.”
Additionally, Senate aides also told reporters that the committee’s probe uncovered new information about the extent of the communication beforehand among the rioters, including an increase in traffic to a website about Washington’s tunnels.
The report points to a USCP intelligence product from December 21 warning about a pro-Trump blog that referenced tunnels on Capitol grounds used by Members of Congress, noting a specific post that read: “There are tunnels connected to the Capitol Building! Legislators use them to avoid press, among other things! Take note.”
It included a map of the Capitol campus that was posted to the pro-Trump blog and noted: “several comments promote confronting members of Congress and carrying firearms during the protest.”
The Senate report flagged approximately 30 screen shots of comments on the website including one that said: “Exactly, forget the tunnels. Get into Capitol Building, stand outside congress. Be in the room next to them. They wont have time [to] run if they play dumb.”
That same USCP intelligence report also listed “Patriot Organizations” expected to participate in events on January 6, including Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Stop the Steal, and listed “Secure Communications” likely to be used.
But intelligence officials struggled with how to interpret warnings about those posts and how to differentiate between protected political speech and actual threats.
Pressed on why, despite mounting evidence there were plans to attack the Capitol, law enforcement seemed to rely on past-MAGA marches that remained largely non-violent, Senate aides said the law enforcement intelligence focused on clashes between groups rather than violence toward a building.
In a statement, the Capitol Police said the intelligence reflected a “large demonstration attracting various groups, including some encouraging violence.”
However, the agency added, “What it didn’t know, as Acting Chief Pittman has noted, was the large-scale demonstration would become a large-scale attack on the Capitol Building — as there was no specific, credible intelligence about such an attack,” referring to acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman.
“Neither the USCP, nor the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Metropolitan Police or our other law enforcement partners knew thousands of rioters were planning to attack the U.S. Capitol,” the agency added. “The known intelligence simply didn’t support that conclusion.”
Confusion led to delay of National Guard deployment
The report shows that confusion and a lack of understanding of bureaucratic procedures for approval led to the delay in National Guard support to the US Capitol on January 6.
The Capitol Police Board must submit a “written request for external assistance,” but, during emergencies, the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms “may authorize the request” for their chambers, according to the U.S. Code, but “none of the members of the Capitol Police Board appeared fully familiar with the process or requirements relating to emergency declarations,” the report stated.
Former USCP Chief of Police Steven Sund never submitted a “formal request” for National Guard support to all members of the Capitol Police Board, and he only had “informal conversations” with the SAAs of both chambers of Congress, according to the report.
“Even when under attack, the USCP Chief still needed an emergency declaration from the Capitol Police Board before requesting National Guard assistance,” the report states.
When Sund and former DC National Guard commanding general William Walker discussed potential DC National Guard support on January 3, Walker told Sund he could support the Capitol Police if needed but reminded Sund that Walker “would still have to seek approval from the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of Defense because it was a federal request,” the report states.
While there has been public criticism that it took the National Guard too long to get to the US Capitol on January 6 and help fend off the mob, testimony from former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller states that this perception might be due to a simple misunderstanding of how the military works.
Miller approved the request for DC National Guard support at 3:04 p.m. on January 6. DC National Guard deployed from the armory shortly after 5:00 p.m. Miller attributed criticism around how long it took DC National Guard troops to reach the Capitol to “either hyper-politicization of the situation or an ignorance of how military operations work.”
Miller, McConville and McCarthy all stressed in testimony that they were on board with sending DC National Guard troops to support US Capitol Police when the request for assistance came on January 6, but a mission plan needed to be developed and communicated to DC National Guard troops before they could be deployed.
“I’ve been in a few riots and just having people show up without a plan and without mission intent, and having understanding of what is happening on the ground — you can just run to the sound of the gunfire, but usually it just doesn’t work. It’s not effective,” Miller said in testimony included in the report.
CNN’s Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.