US

Watchdog says Capitol Police force needs its own intelligence unit to avoid repeat of Jan 6 siege

Inspector General says Capitol Police officers were diverted from growing crowd on January 6 to investigate pipe bombs and the force needs a standalone counter-surveillance unit to prevent another attack

  • Inspector General Michael Bolton told House hearing that 13 counter-surveillance officers were on duty on January 6
  • But most were moved away from Capitol building to investigate pipe bombs found nearby 
  • ‘If those pipe bombs were intended to be a diversion, frankly speaking, it worked.’
  • Force needs a dedicated counter-surveillance unit, he said
  • He spoke at first of three House hearings this week to address security failings that allowed mob to ransack Capitol building

Counter-surveillance officers were diverted from monitoring growing crowds around the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to investigate the discovery of pipe bombs, contributing to intelligence failures that allowed a mob to invade the building, according to a federal watchdog.

U.S. Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton told members of Congress on Monday that the force needed a standalone counter-surveillance unit if it was to prevent a repeat in future.  

The force has almost 2,000 officers – more than the Atlanta Police Department – yet could not prevent demonstrators overrunning what should be one of the most secure buildings in the country.

Inspector General Michael Bolton said counter-surveillance officers were diverted away from their main task by the discovery of pipe bombs in the neighborhood, as he offered his third report into police failings on January 6 

Police were overwhelmed by protesters who invaded the US Capitol on January 6. The Capitol's three most senior security officials resigned in the aftermath and a series of intelligence failing have since been exposed by Bolton

Police were overwhelmed by protesters who invaded the US Capitol on January 6. The Capitol’s three most senior security officials resigned in the aftermath and a series of intelligence failing have since been exposed by Bolton

The Capitol’s three top security officials resigned in the aftermath, including the U.S. Capitol’s Police chief. 

Congressional leaders are considering setting up a commission to investigate what went wrong.

Bolton gave his report during the first of three House hearings this week on the matter.

He said that vague guidance contributed to officers missing warning signs.

‘Additionally, a lack of clear and detailed communication procedures could have increased inefficiencies with processes as well as led to critical counter-surveillance information not being appropriately communicated throughout the department,’ he told the House Administration Committee.

The department also did not properly document or analyze reports of suspicious activities, he continued.

‘A stand-alone entity, with a defined mission dedicated to counter-surveillance activities in support of protecting the congressional community, would improve the department’s ability to identify and disrupt individuals or groups intent on engaging in illegal activity directed at the community and its legislative process,’ he said.

No one has been caught despite a $100,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for leaving pipe bombs at two locations in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington D.C.

No one has been caught despite a $100,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for leaving pipe bombs at two locations in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington D.C.

He said the shortcomings were clear on January 6, when 13 counter-surveillance officers were deployed to monitor the growing crowds.  

Most were diverted to other duties when pipe bombs were discovered close to the Democratic National Committee Headquarters and Republican National Committee Headquarters. 

‘When we had the pipe bombs, three of the teams went to those pipe bombs and because they are doing double duty they start doing an investigation,’ he said.

‘That left one team to cover the Capitol complex.

‘So in other words, if those pipe bombs were intended to be a diversion, frankly speaking it worked.’

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021.

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021.

A dedicated counter-surveillance unit would not have been diverted away from its main task, he added.

The Capitol Police issued a statement ahead of Bolton’s appearance, saying it had already begun to act on his findings.

‘The USCP agrees a standalone counter-surveillance unit would be valuable,’ it said. ‘However, in order to fully implement this recommendation, the department would require additional resources for new employees, training, and vehicles as well as approval from congressional stakeholders.’

It also said there had been a 107 percent increase in threats against members of Congress this year compared with 2020. 

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