New Senate report sheds light on failure of intelligence community to “properly analyze, assess and disseminate information” that would have led to an adequate law enforcement response to the Capitol riots.
The Army deployed the National Guard three hours after request by chief of Capitol Police. Some officials even claimed rioters were “peaceful” despite extremists’ calls to execute the Vice President and Speaker of the House.
This all begs the question as to whether the agencies which have done so much to destroy democracy in countries worldwide can be trusted with democracy here in the U.S.
Like December 7, 1941, November 22, 1963, and September 11, 2001, January 6, 2021, is destined to be remembered as a date of infamy by U.S. historians.
On that fateful day, diehard supporters of President Donald Trump gathered at the Capitol as early as 6:30 a.m. to protest Trump’s defeat in the November election at the hands of Democrat Joe Biden.
By 10:30 a.m., the crowd had swelled to 25,000-30,000 people at the Ellipse, almost a mile away. An hour and a half later, their hero Trump came and delivered an incendiary speech in which he encouraged the crowd to march on the Capitol. Trump stated: “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
As Trump was still speaking, the Capitol Police received a report of pipe bombs at both Republican and Democratic Party national headquarters.
At approximately 12:53 p.m., a man picked up a metal bike rack that demarcated the Capitol Police’s perimeter and shoved it into an officer standing guard, breaching the outer security perimeter to the Capitol.
A mob subsequently flowed into the Capitol’s west front grounds and then, around the time that Trump concluded his speech at 1:01 p.m., began scaling the walls.
Within an hour, they had breached the police’s final barricades and began smashing and climbing through the windows in the Capitol building.
At that time, a Joint Session of Congress was convening to perform their constitutional obligation to count the electoral votes for President and Vice President and officially announce the results of the 2020 election, which the rioters viewed as illegitimate.
Upon entering the building, they disrupted the Joint Session of Congress, vandalized and stole property, ransacked offices, and threatened the lives of elected leaders such as Vice President Mike Pence, who sanctioned the election result, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who had been branded as “the devil.”
At 2:43 p.m., a former Air Force enlistee, Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed by the Capitol Police after rioters tried to lift her through the cracked window of a door accessing the Speaker’s lobby which, if she got through, would have given her access to the House Chamber.
Seven people overall died, including three Capitol Police officers. Among them was Brian Sicknick, 42, who allegedly had a stroke after he was pepper-sprayed by a pro-Trump rioter.
In the seven hours that the Capitol building was under siege, officers faced brutal physical abuse, and were attacked with chemical irritants and flagpoles and had cans, bottles and a fire-extinguisher thrown at them; 140 reported injuries. Some officers courageously tried to hold the rioters back, while others offered little resistance.
A Capitol Police Labor Commission determined that Capital Police officers “had not been issued helmets prior to the attack and sustained brain injuries. One officer had two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs, and another lost an eye.”
The D.C. National Guard arrived on the scene at 5:20 p.m., three hours after the head of the Capitol Police, Steven Sund, had requested that they be deployed. The Capitol building was finally secured by 8:00 p.m. Only fourteen of the rioters were arrested, making it more difficult to arrest the hundreds of other rioters later on.
Failure of Intelligence Community and Pentagon and Poor Police Planning
On Tuesday, June 8th, Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) released a bipartisan Senate report, Examining the U.S. Capitol Attack, which provided a devastating indictment of the response by law enforcement, the intelligence community, and military to the January 6th riot.
The report indicted the intelligence community for “failing to properly analyze, assess and disseminate” credible intelligence that Trump supporters would be coming to Congress on January 6th prepared for war.
On January 5th, the FBI’s Norfolk office sent out by email—rather than notifying the relevant officials over the phone—that people were chatting online about political violence at the Capitol.
One online thread stated: “be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their Black Lives Matter and Antifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent…Stop calling this a march or rally, or protest. Go there ready for War. We get our president or we die. Nothing else will achieve this goal.”
D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III slammed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for relying on email in such a situation, testifying that “something of this magnitude should prompt phone calls immediately and should have been by phone.”
The Senate report meanwhile blasted the Department of Justice (DOJ) for “failing to conduct inter-agency rehearsals or establish an integrated society plan.”
The DOJ at the time was leaderless following the resignation of William Barr in mid-December.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned on January 7th, came under fire in the report for failing to request through the Capitol Police Board the deployment of the D.C. National Guard before the riot, and for failing to adequately prepare the Capitol Police force.
One Capitol Police Lieutenant asked over the radio: “does anybody have a plan?” Another said that the Capitol Police were “ill-prepared, not informed with intelligence, betrayed and abandoned.”
While seven civil disturbance platoons of the Capitol Police were activated on the 6th, only four were outfitted with special protective equipment, including helmets, hardened plastic armor and shields. In one instance, the bus where the equipment was being stored was locked.
Many of the Capitol Police had to defend the Capitol building in their daily uniforms. Communication was poor. Capitol Police officers stated that they received little direction from their top command and “had to make their own decisions.”
At 1:34 p.m., as the Make America Great Again (MAGA) mob was gaining momentum, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser called Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, reporting that the crowd at the Capitol was “getting out of hand.” Bowser in turn asked McCarthy whether he had “received a request to activate the D.C. National Guard from the Capitol.”
Fifteen minutes later, Steven Sund called Major General William Walker, the commanding officer of the D.C. National Guard, which had 154 personnel in the National Capital Region, including 40 at Joint Base Andrews.
Sund asked for the deployment of the Guard to quell the riots. At this time, a conference call was set up between Walker, Sund, Contee, and a number of Pentagon officials.
Walker along with Contee testified that two army officers—General Walter E. Piatt, Director of the Army Staff, and General Charles A. Flynn, then Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Training, and now Commander of the U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter in Honolulu—stated in the call that they “did not like the optics of boots on the ground at the Capitol.”
Walker further said that Generals Piatt and Flynn—the younger brother of Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael—“both said it would not be in their best military advice to advise the Secretary of the Army to have uniformed Guard members at the Capitol during the election confirmation.”
Piatt claimed that the Pentagon did not deny Sund’s request for the deployment of the Guard, but that a basic plan needed to be established before “rushing into an unclear and dynamic situation.”
Another army officer on the call allegedly insisted that the protesters were “peaceful,” prompting Contee—who was “incredulous at the Army’s reluctance to engage”—to reply that “they are not peaceful anymore.”
At 3:03 p.m., Defense Secretary Christopher Miller—who acknowledged beforehand that January 6th would be a “critical day in many of those conspiratorial minded folks narrative”—approved the activation of the D.C. National Guard.
Guard members at this time convened at the Armory in Washington, were outfitted with appropriate equipment, and briefed on their new mission.
Army Secretary McCarthy arrived at the Armory at 4:10 p.m. and authorized General Walker to depart at 4:35 p.m., though Walker said that he did not receive authorization until 5:08 p.m., after the Capitol had already been ransacked.
Miller later defended the three-hour delay, claiming that time and resources would be “wasted without planning” and that this was “not a video game.” You have to deploy force in a “mature and well-planned way,” he said. “If the National Guard was deployed earlier it would have been uncoordinated, unsynchronized and not effective.”
Foreknowledge of a violent military-style assault on the Capitol, however, should have elicited careful planning in the days before the Capitol riot and morning of the 6th.
Then the Guard would have been ready for a “mature” and “well-planned” operation at the precise moment that the rioters broke through the Capitol Police’s perimeter.
A Five-Year-Old Would Have Known
Former Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff questioned why the Trump rally was not designated a National Special Security event, which would have allowed the Secret Service to take charge. According to Chertoff, “this wasn’t a surprise attack, all you had to do was read the newspaper and see that the president was telling people to go wild. A five-year-old would know this would be a center of focus here.”
So, if a five-year-old would know, where does that leave us? And how can we assess the miserable performance of the intelligence agencies, Pentagon and Capitol Police?
One way is to judge them grossly incompetent and incapable of protecting national security.
Another is to consider a deeper conspiracy.
If the latter is true, we have to ask the question: Who benefited or stood to benefit from the Capitol riot fiasco and who lost?
NBC News reported that, in the aftermath of the riot, at least 13 states took up legislation to crack down on protests. There have also been growing efforts to censor Facebook and other internet providers.
Congress was further debating domestic terrorism legislation that would result in a further expansion of mass surveillance and diminish civil liberties even more than before.
The army and intelligence agencies clearly then had an institutional interest in allowing the Capitol riots to go forward—as they stood to benefit from the climate of unease that they generated.
Eyewitnesses suspected that many of the militants egging on the crowd and coordinating the attack on the Capitol were agents provocateurs, which is a strong possibility. Thomas Caldwell, leader of the far-right Oath Keepers group, which was accused of being one of the chief organizers of the riot, was a former FBI-agent, and leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, had served as an FBI informant.
At least five of the fifteen people arrested in an October, 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were undercover agents who infiltrated the Three Percenters, another of the main groups that instigated the January 6th riots.
Meet the Flynns
Giving added credence to the conspiracy theory is the fact that key intelligence operatives and army officials appear to have identified with the pro-Trump rioters. Charles Flynn, who tried to prevent the National Guard from being deployed—according to General Walker—is, as previously noted, the brother of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser and an adherent of the Q-Anon conspiracy theory.
At a “For God and Country Patriotic Roundup” event in Dallas in late May, Flynn told an admiring crowd that Trump had won the election—winning both the popular vote and Electoral College. Flynn also seemed to advocate for a military coup in the U.S. like in Myanmar, though he later backtracked on his original statement.
In late December, at a White House meeting, Flynn had urged Trump to declare martial law, seize voting machines in key battleground states like Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and order a revote under military supervision.
According to a 2011 profile, Michael and Charles worked together in Afghanistan on the staff of General Stanley McChrystal, a master in the dark arts of counterinsurgency and assassination.
The extent to which the two will apply those same arts domestically remains to be seen, although it is already discernible.
What Lies Ahead?
The United States has experienced coup attempts before, as in 1933, when the DuPont Corporation and some wealthy businessmen from Wall Street tried to enlist General Smedley Butler in a coup against Franklin D. Roosevelt because of their opposition to the New Deal.
Many media outlets are warning of another coup threat by radicalized elements within the GOP, with the January 6th Capitol riots merely serving as a dress rehearsal.
If such a coup were to take place, it would involve key Trump associates like Flynn, Roger Stone, Steven Bannon, Erik Prince of Blackwater, and elements of the military who disdain the Democratic Party.
In early May, a group of 120 retired U.S. generals and admirals calling themselves “Flag Officers 4 America” issued a letter claiming that the 2020 election was rigged, and voicing their opposition to lockdowns and censorship, open borders, the Iran nuclear deal, China and the supposed socialist takeover of the Democratic Party.
The language of the letter was particularly disturbing in its depiction of Joe Biden as a dictator whose overthrow would in turn be justified.
The real threat to American democracy as we can see does not come from Russia or China.
Rather, it comes from home-grown extremists and the agencies entrusted with protecting national security. Their track record is dubious.
See Sally Denton, The Plots Against the President: FDR, a Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2012).Butler to his credit refused to carry out the coup plot and reported it to Congress, prompting a Congressional investigation.
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About the Author
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine.
He is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).
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