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Politics "We had a bad plan", according to the former security chiefs of the Capitol

23:55  23 february  2021
23:55  23 february  2021 Source:   lepoint.fr

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  © Provided by Le Point

L The American intelligence services had underestimated the risks weighing on the Capitol on January 6, so well that the security system was not adapted to counter "criminals ready for war", admitted Tuesday of senior officials during a hearing at the Senate .

After the acquittal of Donald Trump , accused of having incited his supporters to attack the seat of American democracy, Congress opened a new phase of investigation to understand how the unthinkable could have happened, in order to 'prevent this "dark day" from happening again.

On the first day of their efforts, the elected representatives of two senatorial committees heard from senior security officials in the Capitol, some of whom had resigned and had never spoken publicly since this assault.

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Beyond disagreements on their respective roles, they all blamed the failings of the intelligence services and the slowness of the Pentagon to deploy reinforcements.

"Without the information to prepare adequately, the Capitol police were insufficiently staffed to cope with an extremely violent crowd," said its former chief Steven Sund.

"Based on the information we had, I mistakenly thought we were ready," said ex-House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving. "We now know that we had a bad plan," he added, saying he was "deeply shaken" by this murderous coup.

"Improbable"

MM. Sund and Irving recalled that a January 3 report deemed "low or improbable" the risk of "acts of civil disobedience" on the sidelines of the demonstration by supporters of Donald Trump, as Congress certified the victory of Democrat Joe Biden for the presidential election.

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The federal intelligence services had pointed out "a risk of violence" of which "Congress would be the target", but had "never mentioned a coordinated assault", underlined Mr. Irving.

Now the rioters "arrived equipped for a violent insurrection", according to Mr. Sund: "they had weapons, chemical munitions, explosives. These criminals were ready for war."

Five people died in the assault, including a police officer beaten with a fire extinguisher.

The day before the attack, a report from a local FBI office had indeed alerted to more specific calls to "fight", but the document, transmitted in the evening to the Capitol police, had not circulated internally, Sund revealed.

"Just pressing + send is not enough for a report of this nature," said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, deeming this lack of communication "very disturbing".

"Not fast"

Witnesses also implicated the Pentagon, which waited several hours to deploy the National Guard.

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Faced with the violence of the intruders, Steven Sund explained that he called for reinforcements very early on. According to him, a high-ranking officer, Walter Piatt, would have replied: "I do not like the image of the National Guard lined up in front of the Capitol."

Witness to the exchange, Washington City Police Chief Robert Contee said he was "stunned" by the response. "It looked like there were boxes to be ticked when officers were fighting for their lives," he said.

"It is clear that the National Guard was not quick to respond," also said Mr. Irving.

A dissonant note, Mr. Sund accused the House Sergeant-at-Arms of having himself expressed, before the attack, his skepticism about the mobilization of soldiers. "He was worried about the projected image," he said.

"That's wrong," replied Mr. Irving. "Image issues did not determine our choices."

Mr. Sund also assured to have contacted Mr. Irving at 1:09 p.m. on the day of the assault to obtain the green light for a request for reinforcement. The latter said he did not remember it and had no record of this call on his phone.

Senators have asked them to hand in the reports of their calls and messages.

The elected officials of the two parties, who will resume their work next week, have shown their willingness to work in a "constructive" manner, putting aside the differences displayed during the trial of Donald Trump.

On February 13, 57 of the 100 senators ruled that the former Republican president was guilty of "inciting insurrection", but it would have taken a majority of 67 elected for him to be condemned. Most of his party's elected officials voted for acquittal.

23/02/2021 21:01:21 - Washington ( AFP ) - © 2021 AFP

After Oath Keepers charges, could feds accuse Capitol attackers of conspiring to overthrow U.S. government? .
More members of the Oath Keepers face charges in the Capitol riot. Some legal experts believe attackers could be charged with seditious conspiracy.An indictment filed on Jan. 27 charges three of the riot suspects with conspiring to impede Congress' certification of the Electoral College vote for the 2020 presidential election. The filing alleges those three are members of the Oath Keepers, "a loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip Americans of their rights.

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