Congress intelligence, security panels to probe lapses before U.S. Capitol rampage

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Congressional Intelligence and Homeland Security oversight committees are opening investigations into why federal and local law enforcement agencies did not pay closer attention to a warning the day before pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, congressional aides said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) questions witnesses during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing about ‘worldwide threats to the homeland’ on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 17, 2020. Chip Somodevilla/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

They join the Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees investigating security lapses at the Capitol complex on Jan. 6 which resulted in rioters entering the building and threatening legislators, congressional staff and members of the media.

On Jan. 5, the FBI’s office in Norfolk, Virginia, circulated a warning widely to law enforcement agencies that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” the FBI has confirmed.

Supporters of President Donald Trump rampaged in the building following a speech in which the Republican urged them to fight Democrat President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump falsely claims he lost because of widespread voting fraud. The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to impeach Trump on charges of incitement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation bulletin was “raw, open source” intelligence, meaning that the FBI had not confirmed it, a law enforcement source said, a possible explanation for the weak police response.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, whose chairman in the new Congress will be Democrat Mark Warner, is collecting information and will interview witnesses on why federal and local agencies did not respond more aggressively and effectively to the FBI warning, a committee official said.

The FBI declined to comment on the congressional probes and the Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The House Intelligence Committee, led by Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat, is also digging into why law enforcement agencies, in light of the warning bulletin, did not prepare more thoroughly for the kind of violence that occurred, a committee official said.

The official said the committee has already started contacting intelligence and law enforcement officials to “understand what warning signs may have been missed, determine whether there were systemic failures, and consider how to best address countering domestic violent extremism, including remedying any gaps in legislation or policy.”

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, will also dig into how federal security agencies performed.

“One avenue the committee will definitely look at is the ignoring of domestic terrorism threats, even though there were all these small attacks and warning signs,” a congressional aide said.

Congress also is expected to investigate how social media and technology companies were used to organize the rampage.

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