The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security downplayed “a massive amount of intelligence information” ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S Capitol, says the chairman of a Senate panel that on Tuesday is releasing a report on the intelligence failures ahead of the insurrection. The report details how the agencies failed to recognize and warn of the potential for violence as some of then-President Trump’s supporters openly planned the siege in messages and forums online, according to the Associated Press. Among overlooked intelligence was a December 2020 tip to the FBI that members of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys planned to be in Washington, D.C., for the certification of Joe Biden's election. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Homeland Security panel, said the breakdown was “largely a failure of imagination to see threats that the Capitol could be breached as credible,” echoing the findings of the Sept. 11 commission about intelligence failures ahead of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The report by the panel’s majority staff says the intelligence community has not entirely recalibrated to focus on the threats of domestic, rather than international, terrorism. And government intelligence leaders failed to sound the alarm “in part because they could not conceive that the U.S. Capitol Building would be overrun by rioters.” The report contains dozens of tips about violence on Jan. 6 that the agencies received and dismissed either due to lack of coordination, bureaucratic delays, or trepidation on the part of those who were collecting it. The FBI was hindered in its attempt to find social media posts planning for Jan. 6 protests when the contract for its third-party social media monitoring tool expired. At Homeland Security, analysts were hesitant to report open-source intelligence after criticism in 2020 for collecting intelligence on American citizens during racial justice demonstrations. The social media company Parler, a favored platform for Trump’s supporters, directly sent the FBI several posts it found alarming, adding that there was “more where this came from” and that they were concerned about what would happen on Jan. 6. Even as it received the warnings, the Senate panel found, the agency said over and over again that there were no credible threats.