What the report finds is failures at every level. The FBI and intelligence community failed to provide an adequate warning about potential (and openly planned) violence. The Capitol Police failed to act on the intelligence they did receive, and didn’t prepare to address known security threats. And the Pentagon resisted offering assistance of the D.C. National Guard while a clumsy and opaque system slowed responses once the insurrection was underway.
In other words, the report doesn’t actually provide much new information, but only serves to underline how agencies at all levels ignored the threat represented by Trump supporters. They failed to prepare for violence even though the group coming to Washington on that date included thousands of white supremacist militia members who had for months been engaged in violent actions elsewhere, had twice generated violence at past Washington, D.C., events, and were publicly threatening to disrupt and overthrow the government.
What’s most notable about this report, is what it does not contain.
A large portion of the Senate report detailed how the National Guard was delayed for hour after hour as officials from the Capitol Police and Metro D.C. Police made increasingly urgent requests. Even with then-chief of the Capitol Police Steven Sund begging for help, Pentagon officials—including the brother of disgraced general Michael Flynn, who was calling for a military coup at the time—resisted taking any action.
Instead, the Pentagon wasted hours in “discussion” and “mission planning” as insurrectionists were overwhelming the police, smashing through the doors of the Capitol, and prowling the halls of Congress. They kept right on “planning” even as senators and representatives were being hunted by men in tactical gear carrying zip ties and a gallows was erected on the Capitol lawn.
Missing from this whole section is any mention of how Trump might have ended all this confusion with a phone call. Instead, he sat watching approvingly as his supporters broke through barricades, swarmed the Capitol building, and attempted to disrupt the results of the election. Instead, it took Mike Pence getting involved to move the process forward, even as Trump sat cheering the assault from the sidelines.
The conclusions of the report are all about the failures of the intelligence agencies to provide information, the Capitol Police to act appropriately on the information they had, and the byzantine steps that had to be satisfied to deploy the D.C. National Guard. When it comes to these issues, there are a whole series of suggestions for improvement.
In the case of intelligence agencies, that solution is that they should “review and evaluate” everything from how they handle social media threats to how they issue warnings to police—a section that might as well be titled “It would be nice if the guys did their job.” The report also points out that the intelligence community has been failing to provide accurate information on domestic terrorism on the right. It doesn’t point out that this failing is deliberate.
For the Capitol Police, the report suggests that they update their command system and intelligence system to that special events are given an “operational plan” that assures “sufficient civilian and sworn personnel, with appropriate training and equipment” are available. What the report doesn’t address is how the Capitol Police, like the intelligence community, specifically failed to plan for violence on Jan. 6 because they, like the intelligence community, turned a blind eye to specific threats of violence—and a history of violence—by white nationalist elements of the right.
And when it comes to the National Guard, the report has a whole series of proposals. That includes developing a standing set of “contingency plans” for responding quickly to specific scenarios more quickly; improving communications and practicing deployment of both D.C. Guard units along with units from neighboring jurisdictions; and “clarify the approval processes and chain of command within DOD to prevent delays.” The proposals for the Guard also include plans for a “Quick Reaction Force.” However, those plans—like everything else in this section—are left at the discretion of the same people who slow walked, dithered, and outright refused to take action on Jan. 6.
It also completely ignores the one solution that would resolve the whole National Guard issue most efficiently: D. C. statehood.
Even as a list of failures on the part of intelligence, police, and military, the report is barely adequate. Because while it looks at what happened, it doesn’t look at why in the sense of being truthful about the motivations and attitudes that meant thousands of white supremacists could publicly discuss open revolt in social media for months, intelligence and police could be fully aware of that planning, and still everyone would treat violence as if it was a “remote possibility.”
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