The FBI Appears Rattled (Part 3)
Welcome to Part 3 of my series: delving into the events of last week's attack on the US Capitol, while placing the facts and evidence coming at us quickly, into some kind of context that makes sense.
The day before Trump’s mob descended upon the United States Capitol Building, FBI Officials in Virginia submitted a report, that included a direct warning about the serious threat that was coming, and that should have sounded an alarm on the impending attack. The notification was submitted to the bureau’s Washington field office on Jan. 5 by the FBI’s Norfolk office in southern Virginia, and it was also passed on to other law enforcement agencies to caution them.
The submitted report detailed a plan for insurrectionists having access to and sharing a map of the underground tunnels within the Capitol complex. There was also information involving how rioters were scheduled to meet at specific rendezvous points beforehand in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina, so that they could travel to Washington, DC, together.
The report contained a call to action from the insurrectionists that made the following statement: “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.” Officials are warning that this information was uncorroborated, and the portion that quoted “war” came from a single threat online social media thread. But, surely securing the outer perimeter of the US Capitol building is not such an outlandish concept just ahead of Trump calling for action, and where many threats and plans were easily available to read online.
Steven D’Antuono, the FBI Field Office Head for Washington, DC, gave the explanation during his public briefing, that the FBI had no indication within the agency or elsewhere in law enforcement that anything could happen on this level, or any level that would even disrupt activities at the US Capitol Building.
D’Antuono went on to confirm that the FBI had no advance notice of any threat of violence, and had determined that only First Amendment-protected activities, that included hate speech but posed little threat, would take place. Given that we now know a formal report on what would take place existed, and was disseminated to at least D’Antuono’s own field office, makes his public statement wholly untrue.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Homeland Security Senior Official Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, have briefed more than 5,000 law enforcement officials a full week after the attack, about potential threats and violence that could erupt this weekend, before the inauguration, at all 50 state capitol buildings around the country. Given that the intel on the attack at the US Capitol was available, it’s confounding as to why both Wray and Cuccinelli did not hold the same type of briefing, with the same number of law enforcement officials, before the Capitol attack took place.
The FBI’s denial of any advance warning, is very confusing and problematic when placed in context with what members of Congress feared would happen and were prepared for. One member even directed her husband on how to locate her will in the event that she was killed in an attack that day. The overwhelming force that had been used by law enforcement all summer for Black Lives Matters protestors, all over the country during protests that rarely escalated, was monumental compared to this.
Given that an unusual number of threats had been made before the attack, and that the president himself was inciting his followers to take action publicly, last Wednesday’s attack completely foreseeable. If the other anti-Trump protests were the standard for how this event last week should have been manned, then the measure of Trump’s march and rally event and the subsequent insurrection on the US Capitol that followed, could best be compared with having scheduling two workers for an entire store during Black Friday.
What is also concerning is that once it was blatantly apparent that there would be a serious problem within the US Capitol Complex, that would quickly overpower Capitol Police and all other local law enforcement, it still took the federal government nearly five hours to respond with backup. The governors of Maryland and Virginia stood by, ready to activate their state’s National Guard reserve — they were left in limbo and the necessary order to deploy was ignored. It is difficult to find any other way to describe a mistake, or series of mistakes, so egregious as anything other than intentional.
Representative William Keating (D-MA) is a former prosecutor, who had previously served on the Homeland Security committee, and he insisted on walking the grounds with Capitol Police before the attack, to learn more about the security plans and how Congress would be specifically protected. Rep. Keating was assured that security would be extremely tight and that the perimeter of the building would be secured and cordoned off by Capitol Police, so that protesters from the march would not even be able to approach the building.
”I was given some confidence by the discussions I had, which I think was sincere from the front line people that they had this under check,” Keating said. But, by the time rioters began to storm the building last Wednesday, the congressman said, it became “very clear that the planning was an abysmal failure.” Keating went on to say that after the attack had concluded, and the building had been secured, Congress went back to work. “[Congress] are instruments of the government doing our jobs, and this was an attempt to stop that from happening,” said Keating.
When the coup began, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) was able to retreat safely to his office to take cover and hide. Moulton made an emergency call to a friend in the FBI to beg him to get his unit to the Capitol, but the federal agency was purposely held back from deploying for many hours. “This is the kind of violence, this is the kind of terrorism that I expected to see in Iraq as a United States Marine, not here in Washington, D.C., not an attempted coup on our own country,” Rep. Moulton explained to WBUR News, during an interview he gave while in hiding.
One member had gone to the extent of explaining in detail the week before the attack where her husband, who was back in her home state caring for their daughter, could locate her will in case anything happened to her. Representative Jim McGovern went to the Capitol alone that day: “I told my staff to stay home,” he said, worried after reading about the online threats of violence. As Trump’s rhetoric heated up, and got closer to actually inciting violence, many members of Congress inquired with the Capitol Police directly about how confident they were in the security plan — everyone knew what was coming.
The explanation that Capitol Police was simply caught off guard and eventually too overwhelmed to handle the event is preposterous. A further excuse that Capitol Police are only accustomed to dealing with tourists, who are by and large extremely compliant and nothing like the insurrectionists who seized the building, is also ridiculous and slightly offensive to all of the hardworking people who serve at that post.
Also at issue is the painfully clear absence of Christopher Wray, who is serving as acting Director of the FBI, but has yet to issue any kind of formal statement or reassurance. Despite the glaring need to be briefed by the acting director, who could have easily done what the FBI Field Office Heads were sent in to do, Wray has given the country an empty feeling following one of the largest betrayals the US has ever experienced.
Wray finally commented yesterday, for the first time since the attack — more than a week after an unprecedented revolt against America, and its seat of democracy. When he finally emerged Thursday, for an inauguration security briefing with Vice President Mike Pence, he simply said: “We know who you are if you're out there, and FBI agents are coming to find you." Wray was speaking at a meeting with all federal agency heads, who were giving Pence a quick account of what measures were being deployed next week for protection.
In another never-ending stroke of irony that continues to pummel the Trump Administration, we waited over a week for a one-liner from Wray that was something out of a Schwarzenegger movie. (Schwarzenegger himself put out a moving and re-assuring video statement soon after the attack.) Wray went on to warn those considering insurgent activity for the inauguration by stating: "My advice to people who might be inclined to follow in the footsteps of those who engaged in the kind of activity we saw last week is stay home.” Wray continued, "Look at what's happening now to the people who were involved in the Capitol siege."
There seems to be little acknowledgement about the systemic underlying issue of Trump supporters — they are completely brainwashed and operating within a well-organized and heavily armed cult. If Wray thinks appealing to extremist white nationalist domestic terrorists through their fear of apprehension or prison is a winning strategy, then he is asleep at the wheel.
This was not a one-time incident that is easily tamped down with excessive military force; this is an epidemic in America that has been known to law enforcement for decades and has posed a long-standing threat that the Trump administration has intentionally ignored. Watching Wray explain the events, and make a statement as to our national law enforcement response during a run-of-the-mill meeting with Mike Pence as his audience, completely ignores the American public and our understandable need to feel safe after a violation of this magnitude.
Every person who is not publicly standing up against the US Capitol attack should be viewed through a lens of suspicion. Now we must examine the actions of all law enforcement and agency heads with the same scrutiny given the failure of the explanations to add up. Sadly, a lack of confidence in Christopher Wray translates to a lack of confidence in all federal government. While this might have seemed like a paranoid concept before the attack, it would be easier to just establish an independent commission to investigate everyone.
Every dark corner, every dingy basement, every locked door and hidden stash — such a monumental failure to protect us should only be met with a “leave no stone unturned” mentality. We need to understand exactly what happened before we can determine a solution. We need complete honesty, and a back up system for proving the truth, because we allowed too many to become brainwashed by ignoring it. America needs answers before it can have unity.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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