New Report: Failures by Top Intelligence Agencies in the Weeks Prior to Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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“My report shows there was a shocking failure of imagination from these intelligence agencies to take these threats seriously,” Democratic U.S Senator and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Gary Peters, said.

A new report by Democrats was released claiming there were failures by the Federal Bureau of Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security’s Intelligence and Analysis in the days and weeks prior to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The 106-page report titled ‘Planned in Plain Sight’ dives into many of the tips received the responses or lack thereof, and claims there was a misappropriation of security all leading up to and on Jan. 6 that left nine people dead.

“My report shows there was a shocking failure of imagination from these intelligence agencies to take these threats seriously, and there is no question that their failures to effectively analyze and share the threat information contributed to the failures to prevent and respond to the horrific attack that unfolded at the Capitol,” Democratic U.S Senator and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Gary Peters, said.

The report released by Peters alleges that both the FBI and I&A received multiple tips, early warnings, and other intelligence about plans surrounding violence on Jan. 6 but only the FBI released two intelligence documents related to Jan. 6, both of which were issued the night before. 

The investigation also found that criticism of the I&A for ‘over-collecting intelligence’ on Americans during racial justice demonstrations in 2020 caused the agency to hesitate gathering intelligence before the attack on the capitol.

“I&A’s mistakes during racial justice demonstrations in 2020 — during which the agency was criticized for over-collecting intelligence on American citizens — resulted in a ‘pendulum swing’ after which analysts were then hesitant to report open-source intelligence they were seeing in the lead-up to January 6th,” the report reads.

The report alleges that both the FBI and I&A failed to utilize and monitor social media for potential violence and domestic terrorism and struggled to assess whether or not the threats were reportable threats. 

“The threats to the Capitol on January 6th were not made solely in private conversations that required secretive law enforcement investigative tactics to detect. On the contrary, these threats were made openly, often in publicly available social media posts, and FBI and I&A were aware of them,” the report says.

Early tips came in as soon as Dec. 22, 2020, about concerning comments related to the Jan. 6 attack, according to the report. Screenshots in the report show a member from the Oath Keepers saying “There is only one way in. It is not signs. It’s not rallies. It’s f*cking bullets!” 

The report states that former President Donald Trump and his allies were "the primary cause of the insurrection." 

“President Trump, his lawyers, and elected officials seeking to curry favor repeated false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen, and that coupled with President Trump’s calls for a protest in D.C. on January 6th that would 'be wild,' directly contributed to this attack,” the report states.

“But the fact remains that the federal agencies tasked with preventing domestic terrorism and disseminating intelligence – namely FBI and I&A – did not sound the alarm, and much of the violence that followed on January 6th may have been prevented had they done so.”

The FBI and the DHS have since responded to the report.

The FBI said in a statement to Forbes that its goal “is to disrupt and stay ahead of any threats” and the agency is “constantly trying to learn and evaluate what we can do better or differently, and this is especially true of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.”

"Since that time, I&A has significantly enhanced training for its collection and analytical staff, has developed and clarified guidance and policy around the handling of domestic violent extremism issues, and has doubled the size of the Intelligence Oversight Office that provides guidance to I&A's operational staff," a DHS spokesperson said in a statement to NPR.

"Our nation is still reckoning with the fallout from January 6th, but what is clear is the need for a reevaluation of the federal government’s domestic intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination processes," the report says in closing.

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