Other’s opinion: Capitol attack: Further investigation needed

Published 6:30 am Saturday, March 6, 2021

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The Free Press, Mankato

The first Senate hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol highlighted a series of intelligence missteps, failures of those in charge of protecting it and sadly reflected many of the shortcomings discovered by a special commission following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Lawmakers grilled former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving and former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael C. Stenger, who all resigned after the attack. Also testifying was the acting chief of Washington D.C. police.

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Their testimony showed a frustrating amount of finger-pointing and exposed the lack of clear definition of who is responsible for protecting the Capitol.

One of the most stunning revelations was that the FBI chose to email a document that called for a violent attack on the Capitol, rather than directly contacting those leading security at the Capitol. The memo, based on an anonymous social media threat that was flagged by the FBI, gave a clear warning of what was to come:

“Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in. … Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal,” read the document, which the FBI emailed to other security officials on the day before the riots. All the security officials testifying said they did not see the email warning prior to the violent assault on the Capitol.

Indeed, communication failures on a number of levels led to the lack of preparation that allowed the assault — and five resulting deaths — to play out.

But the hearing failed to answer the reason for the slow response by the National Guard and who was responsible for it.

The hearing also confirmed the rising threat of white supremacist groups. A Capitol Police captain noted that members of the Proud Boys and other racist groups attended two previous pro-Trump rallies after the November election and many members of the groups led the violent mob that attacked the Capitol.

The information gathered so far shows that the lack of intelligence sharing and poor communications was similar to the findings of the 9/11 commission and reinforces the necessity of a similar commission to look thoroughly into the Capitol insurrection.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced recently such a commission, which has bipartisan support, will be launched.

As important as finding what went wrong prior to the Capitol siege is to put in place policies to improve intelligence gathering and sharing.

Whatever comes out of further investigations, Americans should not lose sight of who was ultimately responsible for the Capitol assault. Former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election — lies he continues to spout — fomented the white supremacists and other violent radicals who led the assault.