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Welcome to Hark Herald Press Monday, March 08 2021 @ 12:44 AM UTC

ANALYSIS: What Went Wrong with Capitol Security during the Jan. 6th Insurrection Riots?

Capitol Riots Extended Coverage
  • Wednesday, January 27 2021 @ 07:11 PM UTC
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The evidence of how heads of security agencies responded during the January 6th, 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill keeps rolling in. And it's very concerning.

On January 26th the Washington Post posted an article that essentially points to the Pentagon as being far too restrictive in their command chain, specifically with the new commanders that Trump installed back in December. According to Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the commanding general of the DC National Guard, the Pentagon crippled his ability to roll out troops if needed.

Commanding General of the DC National Guard, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker

Worse yet, the DC government hadn't asked the DC National Guard to prepare a sizeable force to counter potential violence, with the optics of a military presence being a concern.

Prior to January 6th, the Pentagon placed restrictions on Walker that required him to wait for an approval from Army secretary Ryan D. McCarthy and acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller before dispatching troops, even though dozens of soldiers were on standby near the Capitol to respond quickly (quick response force).

The reason for the Pentagon's chain-of-command approval is because their own leaders were criticized for actions the D.C Guard took during the D.C. June of 2020 protests, which included helicopters flying low over demonstrators. “Any time we would employ troops and guardsmen in the city, you had to go through a rigorous process. As you recall, there were events in the summer that got a lot of attention, and that was part of this" said McCarthy.

Army secretary Ryan D. McCarthy

Had Walker not been restricted, he said he could have deployed the D.C. Guard sooner. After all, they were only two miles from the D.C. Guard headquarters. How much sooner, he was asked? "With all deliberate speed -- I mean, they're right down the street." Walker recalled a conversation, just prior to Jan. 6th, with Capitol Police chief Steven Sund. He recalled how police chief asked, "If I call you, will you be able to help?" Walker responded in the affirmative, adding "But, I need permission. So send a formal request."

The request by Sund to Walker came at 1:49pm on the day of the insurrection, just as rioters were about to breach the Capitol. Walker responded by saying, “I told him I had to get permission from the secretary of the Army and I would send him all available guardsmen but as soon as I got permission to do so. I sent a message to the leadership of the Army, letting them know the request that I had received from Chief Sund.”

Permission from the Pentagon wouldn't come for another hour and fifteen minutes, according to the Defense Department. Meanwhile, members of Congress were running for their life. They were locking themselves in offices and barricading doors.

While this was happening, Sund called the Pentagon. He recalled that Army staff director, Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, saying "I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background.” Piatt later said he didn't make those remarks, but would later backtrack after several people in the room told him he may have said that. Nevertheless, Piatt wasn't part of the chain of command - he was leading the call while waiting for the Army secretary to approve activation of the D.C. Guard.

DC Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund

Walker, who was also on the call, said the call was chaotic, as many people were participating. "There was some talk about optics, but I can't assign that to one person. It's clear somebody talked about optics. Who said that? I'm not sure." On Jan. 5th, a day before the event, a senior U.S. official asking to remain anonymous told the Washington Post that the military "learned its lesson" after being criticized over its heavy handed response to the July protests. [The military] would be absolutely nowhere near the Capitol building because they "didn't want to send the wrong message."

The D.C Guard eventually arrived around 5:30pm, some 3 hours and 40 minutes after the initial call by Sund to Walker. On a side note, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, first called the Army secretary to request troops at around 1:30pm.

“Do I wish I could have got there sooner?” Walker said. “Of course. I mean, I think everybody does. I absolutely wish I could have got there sooner. But, you know, I follow orders, and those making the decision went through a decision-making process.”

The D.C. guard is ultimately controlled by the President, but he defers his power to the Defense secretary. Memos obtained by the Washington Post show how tightly the Pentagon restricted Walkers powers ahead of Jan. 6th. The Army secretary prohibited Walker from deploying standby troops on his own unless there was a "concept of operation," a bizarre requirement give that the troops are supposed to respond to emergencies. Top Pentagon officials repeated this assertion about the "concept of operation."

The Army secretary himself was also restricted by his superior, the acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher C. Miller -- a Trump appointee. In a Jan. 4th memo, McCarthy was prohibited from deploying the D.C. Guard with weapons, helmets or the kind of armor needed for riot control unless he had approval from the defense secretary.

In a recent interview, acting Defense Secretary Miller dismissed accusations that the Defense Department acted far too slow in deploying the guard. "Oh, that's complete horseshit," contending that the Pentagon "had their game together." Repeating an earlier assertion by Army secretary Ryan, the Pentagon said they didn't deploy force during the riot because they hadn't approved a "concept of operation" ahead of time with the Capitol police.

Former Acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller

But, as stated earlier, Walker had asked Sund for a formal request for troops, but never received a response from Sund until 1:49pm on the date of the attempted insurrection. Why did Sund wait so long? This is a question that needs to be asked of Sund.

So, it appears as if there is a lot of finger pointing between heads of agencies:

  • Walker says he didn't have the authority to send in troops because Sund didn't send a formal request well ahead of Jan. 6th.

  • Walker said he was further hamstrung by a bizarre requirement by McCarthy that he submit a "concept of operation" before deploying standby D.C. guard members.

  • Sund says Army staff director Piatt --McCarthy's subordinate-- spoke about concern of "the visual of the National Guard standing a police line" during a conference call. Confirming this stance was an anonymous official saying the military would be "absolutely nowhere near the Capitol building." Pentagon officials openly repeated this assertion.

  • McCarthy said he was restricted by Secretary Miller from deploying Troops, per a Jan. 4th memo that prohibited him from deploying D.C. Guard members with weapons, helmets, body armor and riot control gear unless Miller himself approved it.

  • Miller, who is accused of dragging his feet in rolling out the Guard, said the accusation is "complete horseshit," citing Pentagon leadership "had their game together."

  • Days ahead of Jan. 6th, D.C. Mayor Bowser made a narrow request for a D.C. Guard presence, resulting in a few hundred personnel to "help with traffic and crowd management" and another 40 for a quick reaction force. She cited the Trump administration's problematic deployment of federal agents without insignia (badges) on the streets last year and said "the District wasn't requesting any additional support.

    So, who was at fault? The Pentagon under the leadership of Secretary Christopher Miller? The Army secretary, Ryan McCarthy? The D.C. Capitol Police Chief, Steven Sund? Or was it D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser?

    Sources:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/dc-guard-capitol-riots-william-walker-pentagon/2021/01/26/98879f44-5f69-11eb-ac8f-4ae05557196e_story.html

    https://www.csis.org/analysis/online-event-conversation-nctc-director-christopher-miller

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/us/politics/christopher-miller-pentagon-shabab.html
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