Former Homeland Security official Elizabeth Neumann explained that there is the assumption by lawmakers that the attack on the Capitol Jan. 6 came out of nowhere. The reality is that there was so much in public view that it was assumed that there would be violence.
Testifying to Congress Tuesday, former Capitol Police chief Steven Sund said that there was no intelligence about armed insurrectionists, right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers, or the Proud Boys coming after the Capitol. It was a claim that Neumann found shocking because there were people raising alarms a week before the incident, “just based on open source intelligence.”
“There’s an open-source intelligence group I follow, and they had raised alarms multiple days prior to Jan. 6th,” she explained. “So, I question that. I’m not suggesting that they were lying under oath, but I don’t think that they fully are accurately conveying the problem. It wasn’t an intelligence-sharing problem. It was not understanding the intelligence that you had. And here is the other thing. I heard them say there was no intelligence that they were going to storm the Capitol or that the attack was going to happen there. I think we’ve gotten lazy, and we seem to think that intelligence analysts are supposed to predict the future.”
She explained that it isn’t the way that intelligence works. Instead, they give the information about their best assessment and the likelihood of something happening, and security professionals do their jobs.
“We’ve learned the hard way, over and over again, overprepare,” she said. “So, if you get that threat assessment that there might be a potential for violence, that there are people focused on the Capitol. You overprepare and hope you don’t need it. But they kind of seem to do the opposite. There’s probably a number of reasons why they underestimated the threat that was presented to them but I don’t buy that this is an intelligence failure. I buy that it’s a lack of understanding of the threat.”
MSNBC host Joy Reid said that her sense from reading the reports was that the Pentagon didn’t want to anger Trump by having too many police at the Ellipse. “They didn’t want to make his supporters unwelcome,” she said.
Neumann said that it was certainly a factor but that there were others at play too.
“Nobody wanted to upset the president. There was rightly a recognition that what happened in Lafayette Square in June of last year was horrid and should never happen again, but we’re talking about a different situation,” she said. “We didn’t have threat intelligence that somebody was going to try to do something in Lafayette Square. The overreach was that it was cleared for basically a photo-op and they used military forces and combat approaches to clear peaceful protests. [If] we had indications that there were people in the crowd, not the entire crowd, but there were a group of people that were planning violence. It would be completely appropriate to make sure you’re prepared for that violence. I feel like there’s probably lots of reasons that it shall and lots of bad decisions made along the way, including the very obvious one of unconscious bias, and we need to be transparent about that. That is a very real thing.”
She explained that when people think of domestic terrorists, there is a tendency to think that it’s about a bunch of white guys having bar fights, which clearly isn’t the case.
See the full discussion below:
Jan 6 was not an intelligence failure