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Post-911 Security Intel Plans 'Failed Miserably' On Jan. 6, Ex-Chief Says

In a firsthand account of the frantic efforts of Capitol Police officers to protect Congress from an armed mob on Jan. 6, 2021, Steven Sund, the department’s former chief, blames cascading government failures for allowing the brutal melee. The multibillion-dollar federal security network, built after 9/11 to gather intelligence that could warn of a looming attack, provided no such shield on Jan. 6, Sund writes in a new book. The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and his own agency’s intelligence unit had been alerted weeks earlier to reams of chilling chatter about right-wing extremists arming for an attack on the Capitol that day, Sund says, but didn’t take the basic steps to assess those plots or sound an alarm. Sund warns in “Courage Under Fire" that it could easily happen again. Many of the factors that left the Capitol vulnerable remain unfixed, he said, reports the Washington Post.

Sund describes his shock at the battle that unfolded as an estimated 10,000 protesters inflamed by President Trump’s rally earlier in the day broke through police lines and punched, stabbed and pepper-sprayed officers, outnumbering them “58 to 1.” Sund's shock shifted to agony as he unsuccessfully begged military generals for National Guard reinforcements. On Jan. 6, Sund had been chief of the Capitol Police for 18 months after a 25-year career with the Washington, D.C., police in which he had received plaudits for his security planning for Washington’s many inaugurations and protests. Sund called out systemic failures that left his agency flatfooted despite clear signs intelligence agencies had received of a gathering storm. “The security and information-sharing policies and mandates put in place after September 11 failed miserably on January 6,” Sund writes. “We failed miserably to see the apparent warning signs and the danger, like a ‘gray rhino,’ charging right at us.” Sund said he was never warned about red flags the FBI, DHS and his own intelligence unit had received: plots for protesters to come armed, attack Capitol tunnels and be willing to shoot police. Sund resigned a day after the riot when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) publicly called for him to step down over the department’s inability to secure the Capitol. He warns that many flaws in his agency’s structure — in which congressional leaders’ political concerns can overrule the chief’s security judgments — remain.


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