Intelligence agencies gathered the information predicting violence on Jan. 6 — then DHS sat on it
Since hours after Trump supporters surged up the steps of the Capitol; pushed, punched, beat, and bear sprayed their way past police; smashed open windows; shattered doors; and streamed into the building to a chorus of "Hang Mike Pence," there's been one consistent story told about the events of January 6. That story is that it was a "intelligence failure." Again and again, police and military officials have testified that they either didn't get the word that Trump supporters were coming to town with the intent of committing violence, or that word failed to get to the right people.
The memo didn't get out of the basement. Or if it did, the right people never saw it. Or if they saw it, it didn't say anything new. Or …
Except none of that seems to be the case. As NPR reported on Tuesday, a report from the former heard of the New York Police Department makes it absolutely clear that … everyone knew. Everyone knew that the Trump campaign was deeply entangled with white supremacist militias. Everyone knew that they were coming to Washington D.C. with the intention of committing violence. Well before January 6, the FBI, and agencies up and down the chain at Homeland Security had compiled stacks of evidence showing that Trump's event was going to bring violent people with violent intent.
It's just that, having collected this information, all those agencies refused to act on it. "Intelligence collection did not fail," says the report. The failure was that "senior government officials" failed to "issue warnings based on that intelligence."
In particular, the report focuses on a department inside the Department of Homeland Security called the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. That's the department that's charged with taking all the intelligence gathered by more field-oriented agencies and synthesizing it into a useful picture of upcoming events and concerns. The "threat assessments" that seemed to give such conflicting views of what to expect on January 6 were largely a product of this department.
The problems here seem to have been plentiful. First, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis itself was treated as a junior partner for many of the agencies. As a result, it was both understaffed and populated with people who would rather be almost anywhere else. Second, even though it was the one place that was supposed to drag together information that might have been sourced by the FBI, local police, or some other intelligence agency, the feedback from the office was widely ignored. Third, like every agency in the DHS, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis was subject to the whims of leadership. Under Trump, that included taking almost all the resources of the office and focusing them on evaluating supposed threats along the border, while barely acknowledging any threat from right-wing militia — even though agencies had long identified these militias as the nation's greatest internal threat.
In the case of reports that should have emerged preceding the events of January 6, much of the gathered information appears to have simply gone missing in action. DHS analysts were apparently pressured to "fall in line," and provide reports that matched what the Trump White House wanted to see. That includes simply refusing to acknowledge the threat posed by violent right wing extremists.
With a vote on the January 6 commission coming today, members of the House and Senate might want to consider that there's more to look at than the violence that happened in the Capitol that day. More to look at than the mistakes made by the Capitol Police, or even the delays in deploying the National Guard.
By suppressing the intelligence information that had been collected by agencies across the nation, DHS essentially set up the police to fail. It's another reason that the January 6 commission is absolutely necessary, and another reason Republicans are fighting against it — which is the same thing as fighting to continue the coverup.
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