(WASHINGTON) — The FBI and the intelligence arm of the Department of Homeland Security failed to adequately assess the severity of threats leading up to Jan. 6 and, often, to formally alert others to the dangers ahead of time, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
“At a fundamental level, the agencies failed to fulfill their mission and connect the public and nonpublic information they received,” the report states.
The Democratic-led Senate panel found that both the FBI and DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis “failed to issue sufficient warnings based on the available intelligence indicating January 6th might turn violent.”
According to the report, which uses information from the House’s past Jan. 6 committee, the FBI and DHS office received early tips and warnings as well as other intelligence about the chaos that would eventually unfold over Jan. 6.
One tip in December 2020, about the risk posed by the far-right Proud Boys group, urged authorities to “please please take this tip seriously and investigate further.”
Instead, however, the new Senate report faults the agencies for downplaying the known dangers, hesitating in their techniques based on past problems and being averse to more widely sharing what was known.
Among other issues was a tendency to issue warnings informally, rather than in writing — with the FBI putting out only two Jan. 6-specific documents, both the night before, though the date had long been expected to see major pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington.
As one example, the report states: “The Special Agent in Charge of the Intelligence Division at the FBI Washington Field Office on January 6th conflated the Bureau’s standards for what type of information is actionable for further investigation (a higher standard) versus what is merely reportable to partner agencies (a lower standard), and as a result, FBI did not share certain tips and intelligence about January 6th.”
“FBI also did not develop certain tips about January 6th because they were deemed not credible, contrary to FBI policy that requires every tip received to be logged as long as it meets an ‘authorized purpose’ for investigation, regardless of credibility,” the report goes on to say.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the Senate Homeland Security chair, told reporters on Monday that Jan. 6 was “planned in plain sight and yet it seemed as if our intelligence agencies completely dropped the ball.”
The FBI did view some threats flagged to them by outside sources as credible, the report found.
The committee’s findings echo previous reports released by the Government Accountability Office and DHS’ inspector general on the intelligence failures of Jan. 6.
Peters said the “constant finger-pointing” by those in both the FBI and DHS made it difficult to tell who was responsible for establishing which agency was the lead for coordinating the response to the insurrection.
According to conversations detailed in the Senate report, the FBI wasn’t concerned with the prospect of violence even hours before the attack, despite indications that people were gathering in body armor and with radio equipment. And a senior official at DHS wrote as early as that morning, “There is no indication of civil disobedience.”
On the day of the attack, Peters said analysts at the DHS intelligence office were watching the events unfold on TV and “they’re wondering, is this a reportable threat?”
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