Officials to Blame ‘Muddled’ Intelligence in Capitol Breach
(Bloomberg) -- Two top U.S. Capitol security officials are set to blame faulty intelligence for the failure to anticipate the violent mob assault on Congress, saying assessments from the FBI and other agencies leading up to the insurrection were “muddled or contradictory.”
The scheduled appearances at a House subcommittee hearing Thursday by acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett and acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman follows Tuesday’s testimony from their predecessors -- both of whom resigned after the Jan. 6 attack -- similarly faulting inadequate intelligence from outside agencies for security breakdowns.
“Intelligence requires finding the needles in a haystack. On Jan. 6, there was a failure to either gather, synthesize, or disseminate intelligence and there were indications that intelligence was muddled or contradictory,” Blodgett plans to tell a House Appropriations subcommittee, according to a copy of his prepared testimony.
Thursday’s hearing is one of a series of inquiries into the attack on the Capitol by a crowd of former President Donald Trump’s supporters demanding that lawmakers overturn the results of the November election. Intelligence and counterterrorism officials from the FBI and departments of Homeland Security and Defense will get to respond next Wednesday at a second joint hearing of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Rules committees.
Blodgett and Pittman are planning to tell how the 1,200 Capitol Police officers on duty that day were under-prepared and overwhelmed by a mob that outnumbered law enforcement officials, some of whom were diverted to other emergencies.
The intelligence received from the FBI and other agencies didn’t include “any specific credible threat that thousands of American citizens would attack the U.S. Capitol.” Pittman says in her prepared testimony.
“Indeed, the United States Secret Service brought the Vice-President to the Capitol for the election certification that day because they were also unaware of any specific credible threat of that magnitude,” Pittman will say.
Blodgett and Pittman previously testified to appropriators behind closed doors last month.
They both acknowledge that Capitol security forces were not sufficiently armed to repel the attack by thousands of insurrectionists determined to stop the certification of Electoral College votes.
Blodgett will raise questions about the how the Capitol Police handled some of the intelligence that did surface in the days leading up to the attack, including what he identifies as “vital” information from the FBI office in Norfolk, Virginia.
That information involved a warning issued Jan. 5 from the Virginia FBI field office that extremists were preparing to attack Congress and engage in “war.”
The offiials also plan to talk about problems with the current command and “communications structure” for police and others during crises, and improvements needed in assisting or rescuing lawmakers. They also will say there is a need to bolster the security infrastructure around the Capitol.
In their testimony Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger and former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said their planning for Jan. 6 was based on intelligence predicting mere civil disobedience.
Pittman will defend the actions of the department.
“It has been suggested that the department either was ignorant of or ignored critical intelligence that indicated that an attack of the magnitude experienced on Jan. 6 was known and probable,” she says in her written testimony. “This implication simply is not true.”
There was raw intelligence provided by other federal agencies that raised a significant likelihood for violence on Capitol grounds by extremists groups. But Pittman will say that it didn’t identify a specific credible threat indicating “that thousands of American citizens would descend upon the U.S. Capitol attacking police officers with the goal of breaking into the U.S. Capitol Building to harm lawmakers or prevent the certification of Electoral College votes.”
Pittman will talk about how the Capitol Police’s special Protective & Intelligence Operations gathered, distilled into reports, and disseminated information that came from those federal law enforcement partners, such as the FBI and open sources.
A final Jan. 3 department assessment of potential security needs said that “Militia members, white supremacists, and other extremist groups would be participating in the Jan. 6 event.” It also warned that some in these groups planned to be armed, and that targets of the demonstrators would be members of Congress and the presidential election certification process.
Pittman will testify that some security preparations were then adjusted. But even so, Pittman will testify, “the Department was not prepared for the massive groups of violent insurrectionists that descended on the U.S. Capitol’s West Front just before 1:00 p.m. on Jan. 6.”
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