Washington, D.C. - May 4, 2021 - Some United States Capitol Police (USCP) officers could not access their shields during the January 6, 2021, mob attack on the Capitol because the equipment was locked on a bus. Others had access to their shields, but, because they had been stored in a trailer without climate control, they shattered on impact.
These were just a few of the revelations made during USCP Inspector General Michael Bolton’s April 15 testimony before the House Administration Committee. His testimony is especially alarming considering the USCP’s own January 3 intelligence assessment stating that, “Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself.”
Bolton also testified that USCP leadership:
- Ordered officers on January 6 to use “heavier less-lethal weapons” out of concern that “they could potentially cause life-altering injury and/or death, if they were misused in any way;”
- Did not ensure that recruits had the required hours of civil disturbance training;
- Maintained outdated munitions;
- Failed to complete required audits;
- And tolerated a culture within the Civil Disturbance Unit that decreased “operational readiness.”
Bolton’s testimony is among the documents posted today in the National Security Archive’s third "January 6 Sourcebook." Other highlights include:
- Internal Federal Protective Service documents showing the Department of Homeland Security had ample concern for potential violence on January 6;
- A video showing how the mob took advantage of the USCP’s lack of preparation and attacked USCP officer Brian Sicknick with chemical spray; Sicknick died the following day;
- Testimony from FBI director Christopher Wray stating that “The top threat we face from [Domestic Violent Extremists] continues to be those we identify as Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (“RMVEs”), specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race;”
- Testimony from D.C. National Guard Commanding General William Walker that further highlights the Pentagon’s continued failure to explain its delay in authorizing the use of the D.C. National Guard;
- An Army Investigation Report on the use of extremely low-flying helicopters to disperse crowds that were gathered close to the White House on June 1, 2020, to protest the murder of George Floyd – an incident that contrasts sharply with the DOD’s response to the January 6 attacks;
- And Justice Department charging documents alleging that a “quick reaction force” of Oath Keepers furnished a weapons stockpile in Arlington, VA that was to be brought to the Capitol “if something goes to hell.”
The documents posted today – and throughout the National Security Archive’s systematic FOIA campaign to open the documentary record on the Capitol riot – will serve as an important repository for the public, historians, and members of Congress, especially as hopes dim for a bipartisan, independent commission into the attack similar to the 9/11 Commission.
General Walker’s written testimony is a helpful chronology of the day’s events and underscores the 3 hour and 19 minute delay between USCP Chief Sund’s request for immediate assistance and the DOD’s delayed approval. Walker’s testimony also underscores two chain-of-command moves he found unusual: “the Secretary of the Army’s memorandum to me required that a ‘concept of operation’ (CONOP) be submitted to him before any employment of the [Quick Reaction Force]. I found that requirement to be unusual as was the requirement to seek approval to move Guardsmen supporting MPD to move from one traffic control point to another.”
During the oral testimony, the timing of the Pentagon’s approval of Sund’s request came under the microscope. Robert G. Salesses, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, testified that Acting Secretary Christopher Miller approved Sund’s request by 4:32 p.m. – but Walker reiterated that he did not receive that communication until nearly 40 minutes later, at 5:08 p.m.
In response to a question from Sen. Angus King (I-ME), Walker said that the chain-of-command approval process could work within minutes, as it did in June 2020 during the D.C. protests of the murder of George Floyd. Walker stated that the delays on January 6 were caused by not being in the same location as the secretary of the Army, as he had been the previous summer, and concerns about optics.
The USCP IG’s official written testimony largely focused on two completed, non-sensitive Flash Reports. “The first report was a review of operational planning for January 6th including a review of the Intelligence gathering process 3 required for the operational plan that related to January 6th. Our second flash report focused on the Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU) and the Department’s intelligence operations as a whole. OIG will issue our third flash report on April 30 th, which will be focusing on threat assessment and the counter-surveillance unit. We anticipated our comprehensive Review would extend for the remainder of FY 2021.”
The flash reports were damning and underscored that USCP did not have adequate guidance or operational planning, and “failed to disseminate relevant information obtained from outside sources, lacked consensus on the interpretation of threat analyses, and disseminated conflicting intelligence information regarding planned events for January 6, 2021. Additionally, the Department did not require that all of its sworn and operational civilian employees obtain security clearances.”
Perhaps the most glaring item in the public reports to-date is the lack of awareness within the USCP of its Civil Defense Unit’s “Operational Plan for January 6, 2021,” which included a threat analysis from January 5 that stated, “At this time there are no specific known threats related to the Joint Session of Congress – Electoral College Vote Certification.”
Bolton also submitted a more detailed 104-page report to Congress that is not yet publicly available.
Critics have frequently contrasted the federal government’s aggressive response to social justice protests in 2020 to the muted response to the Capitol riot. A particularly apt contrast has been the DOD’s reaction to protesters near the White House on June 1, 2020, during which the D.C. National Guard was authorized to use extremely low-flying UH072 Lakota helicopters (primarily medical transports) to disperse crowds that were gathered to protest the murder of George Floyd.
A recently-released, partially redacted 18-page report on the D.C. National Guard’s use of the helicopters concludes that “there was a systematic lack of understanding regarding the employment and command and control of helicopters during civil disturbance operations, and the decisions to use the helicopters in support of the civil disturbance operations were reasonable given the emergent nature of the situation.” The helicopters flew below 100 feet (the Washington Post estimates they flew as low as 45 feet), and the report indicates some soldiers thought their mission was to deter looting and vandalism.
Regarding Brig. Gen. Robert K. Ryan, who oversaw the mission, the report states that one commander texted, “[Redacted] your helicopters are looking good!!” Ryan responded, “OMG! I am out here too. Incredible. I got special permission to launch. Full authorities.”That the use of the helicopters was not deemed to be a violation of law begs further questions about the lack of such aggressive tactics on January 6.