A new report by NPR says that neither the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) nor the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prepared a threat assessment prior to the violent coup attempt by Trump supporters on January 6, despite having been warned about it in late December.
The New York City Police Department sent a packet of “raw intelligence” — snippets of information from scanning social media and the internet — to the FBI and the Capitol Police ahead of the right-wing attack under the assumption that a formal report would be prepared by the FBI and DHS, according to NPR. But, as NPR’s report says, both agencies confirmed that that never happened.
FBI officials told NPR that they didn’t prepare a report for fear of impeding the First Amendment right to free speech. But, as the outlet points out, “three law enforcement officials told NPR that this didn’t stop DHS and the FBI from issuing intelligence bulletins ahead of mostly peaceful demonstrations in Portland, Ore., after the killing of George Floyd last May, before Black Lives Matter marches in Washington in early June or in anticipation of an annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America.”
Several recent reports have also found that the FBI and DHS were in possession of many other warnings, including reports from within the agencies, which contradicts officials’ claims that they had no prior knowledge of the right’s threat of “war,” as the Washington Post reports.
Aside from formal government reports, there were also ample warnings online on right-wing forums that are open for anyone to read, such as the one on far right forum 8kun, which said “we will storm the government buildings, kill cops, kill security guards, kill federal employees and agents, and demand a recount.”
The Capitol Police also reportedly had knowledge and forewarning of the threat of violence on January 6 in particular, but reports show that the Capitol Police were thoroughly unprepared for the attack. The New York Times, for instance, reports that “Policing experts noted the absence of crowd-control tools such as mounted officers, police dogs or a heavily manned perimeter.”
Black officers within the Capitol Police have been warning about racism within the force for many years, as a new ProPublica report has found. Black officers have reportedly filed hundreds of complaints of racism since 2001, reports ProPublica, with reports of white officers using racial slurs, and Black officers being disproportionately targeted for traffic stops by their white colleagues.
The situation was so ingrained that a Black former Capitol Police lieutenant told ProPublica, “We got Jan. 6 because no one took us seriously.”
“[Law enforcement agencies] literally couldn’t have had more information,” R.P. Eddy, a counterterrorism expert, told Vox. And “the reason for that,” Vox writes, “goes back to the inability of law enforcement officials to see Trump supporters — a group of mostly white Americans, some of them law enforcement officers themselves — as a real threat.”
Vox and many other outlets have pointed out that police in D.C. have been otherwise quick to use coercive tactics, such as tear gas and pepper spray, to disperse peaceful protesters — but were seemingly docile when it came to the white supremacists who breached the Capitol on the 6th. Others have drawn explicit ties between the attack and white supremacy. “Self-righteous White supremacy has never felt the need to hide,” writes Daniel Black, an African American scholar, for CNN. “If we tell the truth, we will admit that Trump supporters’ behavior is in the tradition of White supremacy in America, which is willing to destroy anyone and anything to retain its power.”