The accountability hammer is hopefully about to drop on the federal agencies who allowed a mass of white supremacists to take over the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 with a surprising absence of the kind of forceful pushback from law enforcement that we know this country can bring to bear.
Inspectors general at the Justice Department, Homeland Security, Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense—under which sits the National Guard—have all announced investigations into how the various federal agencies planned for and responded to last week’s insurrection in Washington D.C., according to AP.
The announcement of the probes follows several recent damning revelations that have come out about what the FBI, Capitol Police and other authorities knew ahead of the terrorist incident, particularly given the markedly sparse law enforcement defenses that present during the white supremacist takeover of the federal building.
The late arrival of forces from the National Guard—whose troops are now posted in their numbers in D.C. to protect against potential violence around the inauguration—also raised questions during the Capitol attack, especially after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said his requests for army reinforcements were rebuffed more than once by the Pentagon.
The Pentagon has said it asked Capitol Police if it needed the National Guard support ahead of Jan. 6 and was turned down.
Now a whole host of law enforcement agencies are getting a closer look at who knew what, and when.
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general office said it would look into the response of its component agencies, focusing in part on the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. That unit issues alerts to law enforcement agencies around the country.
The Interior Department’s internal watchdog, meanwhile, will review the actions of the Park Police on the Ellipse, the site of Trump’s speech to supporters at a rally before the riot.
And the Defense Department’s inspector general announced it is launching a review of the Pentagon’s “roles, responsibilities and actions” to prepare for and respond to the protest at which Trump spoke and the subsequent insurrection at the Capitol.
The Justice Department review “will include examining information relevant to the January 6 events that was available to DoJ and its components in advance of January 6; the extent to which such information was shared by DoJ and its components with the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal, state, and local agencies; and the role of DoJ personnel in responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office said in a statement reported by the Washington Post.
The FBI and Capitol Police have come under particular fire, given reports—not to mention common sense—that they had ample forewarning white supremacists were planning to wreak violent havoc in Washington D.C. when Congress was scheduled to certify Biden’s win.
We’ve already reported that the FBI knew beforehand of dozens of the white extremists who broke into the Capitol because they were on a terrorist watchlist, and that an FBI office in Virginia had sent a memo throughout the bureau a day ahead of the attack warning that insurgents were planning to cause violence in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6.
Despite the heads-up that the FBI had of impending white supremacist terrorism, they appeared to be more deferential to the eventual attackers’ First Amendment rights. Similarly, the ousted chief of the Capitol Police, Steven Sund, said after the chaos at the Capitol that his department only had a plan to address “First Amendment activities.”
A whole lot of balls were dropped to allow a mass of racist would-be assassins to get dangerously close to Congress, beat a police officer to death and plant pipe bombs near government buildings in D.C. It will be telling to see what else is uncovered by these investigations, and more than that—what changes are instituted to stop similar supposed failures in the future.