The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a new report faults agencies for inadequate intelligence sharing ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, despite some advance knowledge on potential threats.
GAO found that all 10 federal agencies it reviewed picked up information about possible threats in the weeks before Jan. 6, and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Capitol Police reported identifying threats deemed credible.
“However, some agencies did not fully process information or share it, preventing critical information from reaching key federal entities responsible for securing the National Capital Region against threats,” reads the 122-page report, which includes a number of takeaways about agency operations leading up to Jan. 6.
The government watchdog calls out the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A) for not consistently following procedures for tip and potential threat processing “because they did not have controls to ensure compliance with policies.”
The DHS I&A, Capitol Police and Park Police are also flagged for not consistently sharing “all fully developed threat information with relevant stakeholders.”
“FBI personnel did not follow policies for processing some tips, resulting in them not being developed into reports that could have been shared with partners. Specifically, the FBI did not process all relevant information related to potential violence on January 6.”
DHS I&A officials were found to have not processed some open source threats and to have not shared threat info they did obtain to Capitol Police “in a timely manner.” Personnel, the report notes, told GAO they were “hesitant to report” on Jan. 6 threats “due to scrutiny of reporting of other events in 2020,” specifically, surrounding the demonstrations in Portland, Ore., that summer.
GAO also says DHS didn’t designate the planned Jan. 6 protests as a “National Special Security Event,” which the watchdog argues would have upped security measures, and asserts the Capitol Police focused its plans on “a manageable, largely nonviolent protest” at the Capitol, despite indications that the protesters could be armed.
The extensive report also includes details on some of the threats received ahead of Jan. 6. For example, Capitol Police reportedly obtained information that “a member of the Proud Boys had recently obtained ballistic helmets, armored gloves, vests, and purchased weapons, including a sniper rifle and suppressors for the weapons” and had flown to the capital “to incite violence.”
In comments provided within the GAO report, the Department of Justice said it’s assessing the FBI’s information processing around Jan. 6, and DHS said it would look at its internal controls and policies on information sharing. Capitol Police said the agency is “currently drafting a policy” on threat-related information sharing.