Focus the Capitol riot probes on prevention

Missed intelligence was to blame for the outmanned Capitol defenders’ failure to anticipate the violent mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

That’s what officials in charge of security are reporting.

This past week, officials pointed a lot of fingers at various federal agencies — and at one another — for their failure to defend the building as supporters of then-President Donald Trump overwhelmed security barriers, broke windows and doors and sent lawmakers fleeing from the House and Senate chambers. Those studying the failures must not stop until answers are unearthed about how this failure occurred that took the lives of five people, and how Americans can be assured it never will happen again.

Yes, five people died as a result of the riot, including a Capitol police officer and a woman who was shot as she tried to enter the House chamber with lawmakers still inside.

Former Capitol police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned under pressure immediately after the attack, and the other officials said they had been expecting the protests to be similar to two pro-Trump events in late 2020 that were far less violent. Thursday, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, called the incident a “complete failure of leadership” by Capitol police. Ryan’s comments came as he led a congressional hearing into the Capitol riot response.

“I, for one, am at a loss to understand how your intelligence report — and then later as the mob walked 16 blocks, growing in size and aggressive demeanor — failed to impact the Capitol police force security posture,” Ryan said to Yogananda Pittman, acting Capitol police chief.

Ryan is correct to raise these questions and demand answers.

The Jan. 6 episode forever will be a horrible black mark on America’s history. In addition to those rioters who entered the Capitol illegally, responsibility must be shared with those tasked with keeping the Capitol safe and secure, but who failed miserably.

Ryan serves as chairman of the House Appropriations’ Legislative Branch Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Capitol police. The subcommittee is investigating the Capitol police’s response to the riot by Trump supporters. In addition to Sund, others, including the former U.S. House sergeant-at-arms, also have resigned posts as a result of the riot.

Still, so many questions remain. Pittman testified this week that her department was not ignorant of intelligence on the potential attackers. Rather, she said, “There was no intelligence.”

How that can be is an even greater problem.

Sund echoed his successor’s comments when he said the insurrection was not the result of poor planning by Capitol police, but rather failures across the board. Indeed, great problems and massive failures led to this crisis. We know it will be examined over and over again in the months going forward, as it should. Ryan said Thursday’s hearing was not to serve as a “gotcha” moment, but rather to find the errors and security weaknesses.

Good. While those who erred must be held accountable, it is more important that we learn from the failures of that day in order to be better prepared so that this may never, ever happen again.


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