Roundup: Ex-police chief blames intelligence community's unpreparedness for U.S. Capitol riot

2021-02-23 19:36:07 GMT2021-02-24 03:36:07(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) chief Steven Sund, who stepped down after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, blamed the insurrection on the unpreparedness of the intelligence community Monday when testifying before Senate committees.

"A clear lack of accurate and complete intelligence across several federal agencies contributed to this event," said Sund, telling members of the Senate committees of Rules, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that while USCP "properly planned for a mass demonstration with possible violence," it hadn't been informed in advance by any intelligence agency of the full extent to which the attack was planned and coordinated.

"Based on the intelligence that we received, we planned for increased level of violence at the Capitol and that some participants may be armed, but none of the intelligence that we received predicted what actually occurred," Sund said, adding "what we got was a military-style coordinated assault on my officers and a violent takeover of the Capitol building."

"Although it appears that there were numerous participants from multiple states planning this attack, the entire intelligence community seems to have missed it," Sund said in prepared opening remarks.

Capitol Police Captain Carneysha Mendoza, another witness invited to testify at the joint hearing who has been a member of the USCP for almost 19 years, said while defending the Capitol during the siege, she sustained chemical burns on her face that "still have not healed to this day," adding that she believed the rioters deployed military-grade CS gas inside the Capitol building -- including in the rotunda -- making it "a lot worse inside the building versus outside, because there's nowhere for it to go."

Mendoza's testimony was later echoed by Sund, who called the rioters "criminals" who came to the Capitol "prepared for war." He said that he believed there was "significant coordination" by the rioters to carry out the attack, adding "you're bringing climbing gear to a demonstration. You're bringing explosives. You're bringing chemical spray, such as what Captain Mendoza had talked about. You're coming prepared."

Robert Contee, the acting chief of the D.C. police department, told lawmakers in his testimony that the Defense Department was "reluctant to send the D.C. national guard to the Capitol" at the time of the attack.

"I was stunned at the response from Department of the Army, which was reluctant to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol," Contee said in prepared remarks as he joined the hearing remotely.

"I was able to quickly deploy (D.C. police) and issue directives to them while they were in the field, and I was honestly shocked that the National Guard could not - or would not - do the same," the acting chief said.

Contee also mentioned other limitations on the part of D.C. police, including no jurisdiction to patrol or make arrests in the Capitol without an explicit request from the Capitol Police. That request, according to Contee, came from Sund just before 1 p.m. on Jan. 6, and the D.C. police arrived on the scene "within minutes."

On the subject of requesting the assistance from the National Guard, Sund said in his opening remarks that he has no authority to do that absent an emergency declaration from the Capitol Police Board, an assertion challenged by Senator Amy Klobuchar, who asked Sund to specify the "rule, regulation or authority" on which he based his view.

"I'd have to go back and look at the specific rule, but it's a standard - it's a standing rule that we have," Sund responded. "It's kind of interesting because it's very similar to the fact that I can't even give my men and women cold water on an excessively hot day without declaration of emergency."

"I think in exigent circumstances there needs to be a streamlined process for the Capitol Police chief, for Capitol Police, to have authority," Sund told the senators.

Sund and former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving offered conflicting accounts of the specific timing of their phone conversation on the day of the attack about sending National Guard troops to the Capitol, prompting Senator Rob Portman to request that the two provide the relevant phone records, which he believed "would clear up some of the confusion."

A mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters violently breached the Capitol building on Jan. 6, disrupting the then ongoing congressional joint session to confirm Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.

The insurrection, condemned as an unprecedented attack on American democracy and the peaceful transfer of power, resulted in five deaths and led to the impeachment of Trump by the House, which charged him with "incitement of insurrection."

So far, federal prosecutors have charged at least 238 people for their alleged roles in the riot and opened over 400 criminal investigations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last week that Congress will establish an independent committee to investigate the insurrection, resembling the one set up after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Enditem