January 6

Despite Its Own Warning That 'Congress Itself Is the Target,' the Capitol Police Did Not Expect Anything Like Last Month's Riot

The agency also missed an FBI bulletin citing "specific calls for violence."


The day before last month's deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, an FBI bulletin warned that some of President Donald Trump's supporters were calling for violence to prevent Joe Biden, then the president-elect, from taking office. The bulletin cited "specific calls for violence" in an online discussion thread.

"Be ready to fight," the thread said. "Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled…. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal."

The FBI shared that bulletin, which originated from its office in Norfolk, Virginia, with a joint terrorism task force that included representatives of the Capitol Police and D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). It was also posted on the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal, which is accessible to law enforcement agencies across the country, and emailed to the MPD and the Capitol Police.

But who reads email anymore? During a joint hearing before two Senate committees yesterday, Acting MPD Chief Robert Contee said he never saw the FBI warning. The email account to which it was sent is not monitored "24 hours a day," he said, and a message sent to that address would not "generate an immediate response." He suggested that the FBI should have called him instead: "I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection in the Capitol would warrant, you know, a phone call or something." Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the riot, said he first heard about the FBI bulletin on Monday.

Contee and Sund blamed their inadequate preparation for the violence at the Capitol on a failure of intelligence. Former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger—both of whom, like Sund, resigned after their spectacular failure to protect the Capitol and members of Congress—likewise said they had no way of anticipating the riot because the "intelligence community" (including the FBI) failed to inform them of plans for a coordinated attack. Instead, they expected the usual violence between protesters and counterprotesters as thousands of angry Trump followers streamed into Washington to "stop the steal" at the president's behest.

"If they were finding [evidence] that this was a coordinated attack that had been coordinated among numerous states for some time in advance of this, that's the information that would have been extremely helpful to us," Sund said. "That type of information could have given us sufficient advance warning to prep, plan for an attack such as what we saw."

That defense is complicated not just by the overlooked FBI bulletin but also by a January 3 Capitol Police intelligence report. "Due to the tense political environment following the 2020 election, the threat of disruptive actions or violence cannot be ruled out," said the 12-page memo, parts of which were obtained by The Washington Post. "Supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election. This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent. Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th."

The memo noted "a worrisome call for protesters to come to these events armed" and "Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence." It said "there is the possibility that protesters may be inclined to become violent," creating "a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike."

The Post says that memo "does not appear to have been shared widely with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI." Sund, who said he did not know about the FBI's bulletin until the day before he testified, does not seem to have made much of an effort to keep the FBI apprised of his own agency's assessment. He told the Post "it would be inappropriate to publicly discuss an internal intelligence memo, given its sensitive nature and the risk of revealing sources and methods."

In retrospect, these documents were unmistakable harbingers of what actually happened. While it can be difficult to distinguish between macho posturing and concrete plans of violence, the fact that some people who planned to attend the "Save America" rally were arguing that peaceful protest was inadequate to the occasion, combined with the clear warning that "Congress itself is the target," should have prompted the people charged with protecting the Capitol to reevaluate their expectations.

The Capitol Police intelligence assessment "indicated that the January 6th
protests/rallies were 'expected to be similar to the previous Million MAGA March rallies in November and December 2020, which drew tens of thousands of participants,'" Sund testified (contradicting White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany's risible claim that the November rally attracted "more than one MILLION" people). "The assessment indicated that members of the Proud Boys, white supremacist groups, Antifa, and other extremist groups were expected to participate in the January 6th event and that they may be inclined to become violent. This was very similar to the intelligence assessment of the December 12, 2020, MAGA II event."

Even while noting the possibility of violence, the Capitol Police minimized the danger. According to Sund, its January 4 daily intelligence report "assessed 'the level of probability of acts of civil disobedience/arrests occurring based on current intelligence information' as 'remote' to 'improbable' for all of the groups expected to demonstrate on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. In addition, the daily intelligence report indicated that 'the Secretary of Homeland Security has not issued an elevated or imminent alert at this time.'"

Passing the buck to the Department of Homeland Security, like Sund et al.'s general indictment of the "intelligence community," seems to be aimed at diffusing responsibility for a colossal security failure. When everyone screws up, no one really has to shoulder the blame.

NEXT: As Generation Z Comes of Age, America Is Getting Noticeably More LGBT

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. No mention that the only people who died in this riot were protestors? Seems a very relevant part of the story. Police minimizing danger and a officer or bystander ending up dead is very different from police minimizing danger and no one but the people protesting ending up dead.

    Hell the latter one sounds near identical to all the criminal justice stories Reason likes to make in the regular. Odd how suddenly Reason doesn't care about trigger happy cops shooting unarmed people.

    1. They did an insurrection, and therefore deserved to die. Sullum is a bootlicking authoritarian cuck.

      1. I get paid 140 $ each hour for work at home on PC MAKE MONY. I never thought I’d have the option to do it however BNGT my old buddy is gaining 65000$/month VFE to month by carrying out this responsibility and she gave me how.

        Give it a shot on following website….....VISIT HERE

    2. "Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died from injuries he sustained during the Capitol attack."

      2 others committed suicide.

      1. No, Sicknick did not. Even CNN and NYT retracted their assertions idiot.

        Prove the suicides were linked to the protestors actions. I'll wait.

        1. Well, gee, they happened the same month!

      2. That's the thing though, we already know he didn't.

        He might have died due to a pre-existing condition exacerbated by the exertion and stress of that day - but he otherwise suffered no injuries.

  2. All things considered, the Capitol riot was a fairly insignificant event in the big scheme of things--especially compared to recent riots all over Minneapolis, Seattle, and Portland for instance.

    And those who are hyping its significance are mostly those who are doing so in the hope of purging social media of conservative voices, purging app stores of whole social media channels, launching a domestic war on terror, etc.

    If your instincts were to let this "crisis" go to waste in the name of libertarianism, you'd have been on the right track.

    1. You'll always find a reason to die on hill R.

      1. He's hooked on sophistry.

        1. Oh shit, that's rich coming from you.

          1. He didn't even know that word before I called him, Jeff, and sarcasmic of it. That's the funny part.

            1. I've honestly never seen a more ignorant, barely literate crew.

              Just the other day White Knight was fucking up the idiom: "Contemplating one's navel". He seemed to think it meant viewing the world through ones own prejudices, rather than being excessively focused on one's personal problems or concerns. This is Middle School English shit. And then there's the HO2 and Quotation Marks fiascos.

              Meanwhile Tony was of the opinion that oil can be pumped straight into your gastank from the ground, and that photovoltaics works just fine on cloudy days and at night.

              I don't even know where to begin with sarcasmic. Let's just say that after six months of explaining what a strawman argument is, he still can't get it right.

              ...And Sqrlsy, Hank Phillips and Buttplug are just insane.

        2. By the way, the new CDC report again says you are full of crap in regards to masks. Yet you keep repeating that terrible study that just happens to be the 2nd link when you google study on masks, you know the one you didn't read.

          Mask wearing, even if infected but asymptomatic, does not reduce spread at all.


          yet the statist in you wants to require everyone, even those with no symptoms, to bow to the state.

        3. Sticks and stones can break Ken’s bones but an imaginary fire extinguisher could end his life.

      2. What I said was true (or not) regardless of anything having to do with me personally.


    2. Good lord, what pretentious goobledegook...

      'Fairly insignificant'?

      'Purging social media of conservative voices'?

      Who needs to 'purge' you?

      You're doing a terrific job of discrediting yourself.

      Who could possibly take you seriously after reading this claptrap?

  3. The appeal of QAnon was that it excused cowardice: "Trust the plan" means "You don't have to fight." So they didn't fight online when they had the chance (for years) and instead stormed the capitol under the cover of a rampaging mob hoping something magical would happen. It didn't.

    They eventually realized it was a psyop, but by then it was too late. They are already regretful of their crimes and will blame QAnon and throw Trump under the bus despite the aggressive defense generously offered by the commentariat here as will now be demonstrated:

    1. QAnon is a fable the establishment elite tells wine moms in order to seriously concern them.

  4. "The day before last month's deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol ...."

    Still at it, huh?

    "In retrospect, these documents were unmistakable harbingers of what actually happened."

    So, is Sullum ready to concede that Trump did not actually incite a damn thing?

    1. B-b-b-b-but the zipties and the fire extinguisher and they threw some flags and that one guy in the horns and Schumer's girl friday said someone tracked poop from the bathroom...

      1. String 'em up!

  5. I love the belief that many were armed. Hardly any were. Far fewer than any of the other riots of last year.

    Reason is stoking the fear for no reason as well. After months of downplaying riots, they are now treating 1/6 as the most terrifying moment in recent American history.

    Reason is ASSISTING with the suppression of rights. Showing what a farce libertarianism is.

    1. "Reason is stoking the fear for no reason as well"

      Oh Sullum has a reason.
      As Hannah Arendt wrote in her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism: “A fundamental difference between modern dictatorships and all other tyrannies of the past is that terror is no longer used as a means to exterminate and frighten opponents, but as an instrument to rule masses of people who are perfectly obedient.”

      Sullum is a politruk and an agent of the regime.

      1. Sollum is building his resumé for when Salon hires a gulag correspondent.

    2. Almost no one was armed. These people had been to a speech being made by the POTUS and had been through something similar to airport security screening. If any of them had showed up openly carrying their heads would've been blown apart by Secret Service snipers stationed in all the surrounding buildings and vehicles. Had they showed up carrying as much as a pocket knife or manicure scissors they would've been taken down, cuffed, and thrown into a cage. Watch the videos. Almost all of those "rioters" were just behaving like teenagers lighting bags of dog shit, ringing the doorbell, and then running away

  6. Everybody in the country knew that thousands and thousands of people were coming into DC. It seems like the person in charge of capitol security should have known as well?

    Maybe we should ask her during the impeachment witness session! What's that, now???

    1. Contee and Sund blamed their inadequate preparation for the violence at the Capitol on a failurelack of intelligence.


  7. It seems that the police reaction to warning was to underestimate the significance. Again most people can't help wondering if this has been a BLM protest would there have been greater police/guard present. It is like the police assumed that a group of white protesters will be the equivalent of the "Annual March for Life", with most people just walking around. To be fair much of the protest on the mall likely was that way, but what happened at the Capital has to be taken seriously.

    I participated in a protest last summer. It was very peaceful, but that night well after people like myself left, a violent riot broke out. I guess the lesson us is that for any peaceful protest by any group, police need to be ready to quickly react if violence breaks out.

    I also like to say that police need to identify community leaders in any protest, establish communications with them, and have them ready to help bring down tempers when necessary.

    1. But if an unarmed protestor at one of the earlier riots was killed by police, there would maybe possibly have been a bigger reaction nationwide...

      1. There has been significant reaction to Kyle Rittenhouse killing protestors in Kenosha. Does that count? Or maybe not because he was a want-a-be cop.

        1. No, it's because he was clearly and obviously defending himself against an actually violent mob.

    2. Again most people can’t help wondering if this has been a BLM protest would there have been greater police/guard present.

      If BLM had rushed the Capitol the police would have been told to stand down, the building would have been looted and burned, and any "Peaceful Demonstrators" accidently arrested would have been bailed out by the vice-president.

      1. Leftists have actually exploded a bomb the capitol before causing significant damage and nothing much happened.
        The same group then bombed FBI office, the Israel Aircraft Industries building, and the South African consulate.

        I suppose if they were alt-right instead of militant Marxist lesbians it would have been one for the history books.


        1. Militia Etheridge

      2. No if it was a BLM protest President Trump would called out the National Guard like the summer of 2020. Maybe they would have used tear gas an troops to clear the area near the Capital so President Trump could hold a Bible upside down again for a picture.

        We don't need to ask about a double standard we have the proof.

        1. President Trump could hold a Bible upside down

          You can always tell when a evangelical atheist is trying to concern troll religious people.
          I don't think that there's a Christian denomination on earth that cares if a Bible is held upside down, Bucko.

    3. I also like to say that police need to identify community leaders in any protest, establish communications with them, and have them ready to help bring down tempers when necessary.

      Or else?

      1. I believe in the Bobby Kennedy approach to crowds, you get up in front of them and you talk to them, all day and all night if need be. You find the Bobby Kennedys in the area and you work with them and ask them to go out and talk to the people, listen to the people, help the people work out the issues and cool down tempers.

        1. ^ Ding! Ding! Ding!
          Claims to be older than adolescence, but obviously going on 12.

          1. It does work, but it requires a baseline respect for the speaker and a baseline civility. Get out, talk to people, and keep talking. If they start listening to you, they'll keep listening instead of rioting. That was how Dr King kept a hold of the protests in the civil rights era. Just keep talking. There's a reason it was led by preachers.

            On the other hand, when things start to get out of hand, that falls apart. We saw this in the "I am a Man" riot. By the time Dr King arrived, the protest had already gotten violent and was turning into a riot. King couldn't control it. No one could control it, and all the peaceful protestors fled.

            1. On the other hand, when things start to get out of hand, that falls apart. We saw this in the “I am a Man” riot. By the time Dr King arrived, the protest had already gotten violent and was turning into a riot. King couldn’t control it. No one could control it, and all the peaceful protestors fled.

              So there are protests for which leaders cannot be contacted in time, cannot be relied upon to quell the violence, or the people cannot be placated by talking. My point and even a part of Dr. King's point and certainly a part of Malcolm X's and other similar figures throughout history is that there is civil unrest which should not be placated by talking. They aren't 100% wrong.

          2. He believes in the Bobby Kennedy approach which worked out so well for Bobby Kennedy.

        2. The Sirhan Sirhans like crowds with Kennedys.

    4. "if this has been a BLM protest would there have been greater police/guard present. "


      1. Yes

    5. If it had been a BLM protest they would have been allowed to set dozens of fires, assault cops at will, and not had a single cop shoot at them.

      1. How are the police supposed to establish communications with a decentralized, leaderless, grass roots organization like BLM or Antifa?

        1. If such organizations were alleged to have existed.

    6. I think the police underreaction was also a result of the numerous false alarms of conservative violence. We were warned about violent incels coming out in droves for the Joker movie, but it turns out the only violence was at Frozen 2. We were warned of horrific racists committing hate crimes, for the crimes to be either just mean words or outright frauds. Also, the protestors on this were significantly older. There is a reason that the deadliest part of this riot was strokes.

      Even then, the worst conservative violence in years was underwhelming compared to the devastation of the previous year's riots.

  8. It couldn’t be that the powers that be wanted people breaking into the Capital so they could make political hay about it, could it?

    1. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding...give that man a cigar.

      They knew what antifa had planned and let it happen, then blamed it on the MAGA crowd, many of whom tried to stop the breaking of windows, etc.

      1. What have you been smoking? All I saw was a bunch of white men in MAGA hats and confederate flags. So far none of the people identified and arrested have been antifa, they've all been white supremists, proud boys, Qanons and other wacko groups.

    2. Exactly why the Mayor of DC specifically said she DIDN'T want the National Guard out, and why the "barricades" around the Capitol were of the type you see when standing in line at an amusement park.

      They wanted their Reichstag fire and they got it.

  9. Yesterday, there was news coverage of a Capitol officer saying it was a well planned military-style assault. Chrizzakes, back in the day, our plan to attack the snow fort that the kids on the next street had built was better planned and carried out.

    1. But did you have imaginary fire extinguishers?

  10. How do these memos compare with the thousands of other memos?

    lots of passive voice, framed in the negative. typical bureaucrat speak.

    I'm actually sympathetic to the leadership on this one. They posted it to a portal! One the chief probably doesn't have a password to, and he'll get a pie chart faxed to him in 6 weeks as part of the quarterly review.

    Pick up the damned phone.

    1. Everybody's assholes.

      What are they going to do? Leave a voicemail with the DNC that their servers got hacked? Maybe get around to picking up Tsarnaev *again* after the bomb goes off? Prosecute Omar Marteen's retarded wife for her complicity in her husband's (not) anti-homophobic slaughter?

      1. complicity in her husband’s (not) anti- "homophobic" slaughter

  11. To be fair, the FBI predicts a homeland, conservative terrorist-like attack on pretty much every day ending in "y".

    1. Realistically, they predict Islamic attacks, gang attacks, sex slavery ring activity on days ending in 'y' also.

      1. Between the frequency and typos, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that they're 1/4 of the way through typing The Bible.

  12. https://twitter.com/Sportsf08980142/status/1364600389228769287?s=19

    We are in 1933 germany.
    Most do not know it.
    Worse. More do not even know what im referring to.

    1. The upshot is, in ~80 yrs. we're going to effectively control the continent and make some of the best hovercars and handheld laser pistols.

  13. It is hard to know what to make of the alerts cited in this email. That would require significantly more context, e.g. how many similar alerts were issued for threats that never materialized, how did other serious threats get communicated. In short were the alerts ignored because they had no indicia of seriousness or because the capitol police messed up, or some of each?

    In other words is there some institutional failure that should and can be addressed, or was this just bad luck?

    This article contains some useful data, but far too little on which to base any definitive answer to any of these questions.

    1. "but far too little on which to base any definitive answer to any of these questions."

      And that's on purpose.

    2. No no no no.

      See, when these alerts are issued for people we like - like BLM rioters and Islamic terrorists - then we should discount them because so many are issued where nothing ever comes of it because its the government and they're incompetent.

      When its someone we hate - like white people, maybe misguided, maybe just a little pissed off - in the 'sacred' (yeah, he's called the Capitol Building sacred in these articles) halls of our beloved government then they should have been taken seriously because the FBI would never issue bullshit alerts based on bullshit evidence and some analyst's bullshit hunches and some bureaucrat's bullshit ass-covering.

      1. Sullum needs to get back to reporting on the drug war and vice laws in general. He's done great work there.

        He's just too emotionally close to these other issues to report honestly or even rant without contradicting himself from article to article and ignoring inconvenient facts.

  14. The agency also missed an FBI bulletin citing "specific calls for violence."

    They didn't miss it- they ignored it.

    The only time the FBI is correct about its terrorist warnings is when they're managing the attack themselves.

    Oh - and there was no violence by the protesters either. I guess you could say the Capitol Protest was mostly peaceful, huh?

  15. Sullum is an unhinged cuck, and incapable of covering events of January 6 with any sense of objectivity or reason.

  16. Donald Trump is the last human being anyone should depend on for support. His entire life has been one shafting after another. Everyone who knows him says that he will eventually get around to throwing you under a bus and pissing on your mangled corpse, no matter what. Why he gets a cult is absolutely mind-blowing.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.