Security Officials Testify to Senate That Violent Capitol Insurrection Was Unforeseeable, Blame Breakdown in Intelligence

Former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules and Administration committees joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, February 23, 2021, to examine the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testifies in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Rules and Administration committees joint hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, February 23, 2021, to examine the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
Photo: Erin Scott/AFP/Pool (Getty Images)

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, the former chief of Capitol Police, Steven Sund, stridently denied that the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by white supremacists on Jan. 6 was able to happen because of poor planning by security officials.

In his testimony at the Senate’s joint oversight hearing into security failures related to the attack, Sund said that Capitol police did not have sufficient intelligence to prepare for the “thousands of armed, violent and coordinated individuals” who breached the federal building in an attack that left five people dead.

Sund, who resigned from his post in the aftermath of the deadly attack, added that he was not made aware of a Jan. 5 FBI intelligence report that had warned that extremists were planning to commit violence and wage war at the Capitol.

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“That information would have been helpful to have,” AP reports Sund saying. He added that he was only made aware of the FBI intelligence this week. “I look at this as an intelligence problem that impacted this event.”

Acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Robert Contee said that the FBI intelligence was communicated by email but that the warning should have been shared via a phone call. “If there is specific information that our government is responding to…that should be a larger more involved conversation,” said Contee.

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger and former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, also testified before the Senate on Tuesday that inadequate intelligence was to blame for the insufficient security at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

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Sund, however, acknowledged that the Capitol Police’s own intelligence had warned that the Proud Boys and other extremist groups were target the Capitol on January 6th and could be violent.

According to Sund, that intelligence led him to seek support from the Metropolitan Police to expand the law enforcement perimeter around the Capitol. That perimeter was of course breached on Jan. 6, by Trump supporting insurrectionists who physically attacked outnumbered police officers, smashed windows at the Capitol and roamed freely through the building looking for elected officials.

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Upon questioning by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who used much of his time to absurdly claim that “fake” Trump supporters were actually behind the Capitol attack, Sund agreed with the Republican in saying that the extremists violence that unfolded was unforeseeable.

Despite that claim, Sund testified that he made requests for National Guard reinforcements ahead of Jan. 6, which were rebuffed by his superiors on the Capitol Police Board, who were wary of the “optics” it would cause. The two former sergeant-at-arms said intelligence did not warrant bringing in the troops, and Irving denied that they were delayed due to optics.

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Contee also testified that as the violence erupted at the Capitol on the day of the insurrection, the Army had a tepid response to the requests for the National Guard to be sent in.

Acting Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman, who replaced Sund, is scheduled to testify at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

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