The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation “failed to fulfill their mission” by dismissing or downplaying ominous intelligence in the weeks and days leading up to the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, according to a Senate investigation published Tuesday.
The report — entitled Planned in Plain Sight: A Review of the Intelligence Failures in Advance of January 6, 2021 — was published by Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security Committee and calls the Capitol attack “an unprecedented effort to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election and our nation’s long history of peaceful transitions of power” that “followed months of repeated and false claims by former President Donald Trump, his lawyers, and certain elected officials, that the presidential election was stolen.”
“What was shocking is that this attack was essentially planned in plain sight in social media. And yet it seemed as if our intelligence agencies completely dropped the ball.”
“During the violent attack, individuals dragged a police officer into the crowd and beat him, struck another officer with a flagpole attached to an American flag, hit another police officer with a fire extinguisher, and damaged the Capitol building,” the report continued. “Rioters committed hundreds of assaults on law enforcement officers, temporarily delayed the joint session of Congress, and contributed to the deaths of at least nine individuals.”
“This attack on our democracy came in the wake of years of increasing domestic terrorism in this country — which top federal law enforcement and national security agencies had previously identified as the most persistent and lethal terrorist threat to the homeland,” the publication added.
According to the report:
The intelligence failures in the lead-up to January 6th were not failures to obtain intelligence indicating the potential for violence. On the contrary, the two primary domestic intelligence agencies—the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A)—obtained multiple tips from numerous sources in the days and weeks leading up to the attack that should have raised alarms. Rather, those agencies failed to fully and accurately assess the severity of the threat identified by that intelligence, and formally disseminate guidance to their law enforcement partners with sufficient urgency and alarm to enable those partners to prepare for the violence that ultimately occurred on January 6th. At a fundamental level, the agencies failed to fulfill their mission and connect the public and nonpublic information they received.
This information included:
- A December 2020 tip that members of the Proud Boys, a violent neofascist group, planned to travel to Washington, D.C. and “literally kill people”;
- The December 2020 identification by I&A analysts of “comments referencing using weapons and targeting law enforcement and the U.S. Capitol building”;
- January 2021 social media posts including a TikTok video of a gun-toting man calling on Trump supporters to “storm the Capitol on January 6th” and to “bring food and guns; if they don’t listen to our words, they can feel our lead”;
- A January 2, 2021 social media post forwarded to the FBI that said “this is not a rally and it’s no longer a protest, this is a final stand where we are drawing the red line at Capitol Hill… don’t be surprised if we take the #capital building”; and
- “Multiple concerning posts” noted on January 4, 2021 by high-ranking Justice Department officials including “calls to occupy federal buildings” and chats about “invading the Capitol.”
Yet on the morning of January 6, a senior watch officer at DHS’ National Operations Center wrote that “there is no indication of civil disobedience.”
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chair Gary Peters, D-Mich., told NBC News that “what was shocking is that this attack was essentially planned in plain sight in social media.”
“And yet it seemed as if our intelligence agencies completely dropped the ball,” he added.
In a separate Associated Press interview, Peters said the agencies’ failure to act on the “massive” amount of intelligence they received “defies an easy explanation.”
Peters said the Senate probe “in a lot of ways echoes the findings of the September 11 commission, which identified similar failures to take warnings seriously” ahead of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Similarities between 9/11 and January 6 also include a lack of effective interagency communication and coordination, which resulted in “pretty constant finger-pointing” by intelligence agency officials following the Capitol attack, Peters said.
“Everybody should be accountable,” the senator asserted, “because everybody failed.”