Following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi lost no time in establishing a “non-partisan” review that identifies immediate “actions or decisions” to improve security for the “Capitol, Members, and staff.” In her Liberty Nation article, “Was Capitol Riot Catalyst for a Surveillance State?” Laura Valkovic identified a potential intrusion into Americans’ right to privacy that could result from such a review. Indeed, the recently released draft report of the “Task Force 1-6 Assessment” recommends “long-term improvements to perimeter fencing and security surveillance and sensing system” around the Capitol.
As the report explains, the task force was a non-partisan “team of professionals with law enforcement, legal, personal protection, intelligence, operational, and Congressional experience.” To make their assessment, the team met with such diverse groups as U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Department of Defense, the National Guard Bureau, the Architect of the Capitol, and various congressional members and staff.
The assessment is heavy on assertions with little foundation in data. For example, in the section labeled “Operational Review,” the report states: “Threats against the Capitol and Members have shifted dramatically, both in volume and nature.” The word “volume” probably refers to “quantity” rather than decibels. What are the statistics? What was the volume before it shifted, and what qualifies as “shifted dramatically”?
The assessment asserts that only “a handful of people in the USCP have significant intelligence training. The understaffed Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division lacks the experience, knowledge, and processes to provide intelligence support against emerging domestic threats.”
As the BBC reported in the article “US Capitol police warn of possible militia plot to breach Congress,” the House of Representatives canceled its March 4 session for fear that members might be in danger from another “militia” uprising. The Senate did not cancel its agenda. If the kerfuffle surrounding the possibility of another “insurrection” on March 4 is any judge of the USCP’s intelligence-gathering capability, then the task force assessment is spot on.
Nothing happened. No militia showed up. The anticipated riot redux was the epitome of a nothing burger, no meat, no bun, no cheese, hold the lettuce and tomato. The intelligence could not have been more wrong. So, beefing up the USCP’s intelligence capability could be a sound move.
Understaffed and Ill-Equipped
Another finding was that the USCP “were understaffed, insufficiently equipped and inadequately trained to secure the Capitol and Members.” Additionally, the report revealed that the current vacancies added up to 233 officers in the USCP. Due to a lack of personnel to meet increasing demands, in Fiscal Year 2020, USCP staff worked 720,000 overtime hours. This business model cannot be sustained. The task force recommended correcting the shortfall by funding “350 authorizations to reduce overtime costs” and adding 524 personnel to meet the requirements for increased capabilities, like more intelligence specialists.
However, where the critics had a field day was with Pelosi’s obvious linking of the task force’s efforts to the left’s “barbarians-at-the-gate” fear-mongering narrative. The report’s recommendation for a permanent military or law enforcement “Quick Reaction Force” (QRF) bivouacked in Washington, D.C., is not popular. The review proposes an option “to create a QRF that permanently resides within the D.C. Guard by re-establishing a military police battalion and staffing it with Active Guard Reserve troops who live in or near the city year-round, perpetually on active duty.” Liberty Nation’s article “Capitol or Gulag? Soldiers and Concertina Wire Set the Stage in D.C.,” discussed how the optics of a permanent military presence around the Capitol is not a good look for a free country.
Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL) in a Fox News interview accused Pelosi of playing “politics behind closed doors regarding our security.” He explained that the National Guard should not be the default choice when security around the Capitol is needed. Waltz explained:
“Before any extension for National Guard presence is finalized, lawmakers should be briefed on the latest intelligence threat assessments to determine the necessity of keeping our service members away from their families and full-time jobs. If more security is needed, it should be by our Capitol Police with better planning and intelligence, not drawing from National Guardsmen and women that are needed for other missions such as vaccine distribution, natural disaster and overseas deployments.”
Task Force Leader
The task force leader, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Russell Honoré has had some detractors. Republican lawmakers questioned the general’s objectivity and non-partisan perspective. In an interview on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) left no doubt where he stood when asked if Honoré was a good choice. Hawley said:
“This is a guy who did what we’ve seen the liberals do time and again. He blamed the police first. Has no facts. He has no idea what went on and he’s out there blaming the police and saying they’re complicit. That they helped the rioters. It’s absolutely outrageous … This is somebody who has no business, no business leading a security review.”
When Congress takes up the Capitol security issues, perhaps it should look at the USCP’s poor intelligence capability and personnel shortfalls. These recommendations could merit bipartisan support. However, many Americans would suggest that a standing army around the Capitol should not make the cut.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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