Loading...

Capitol Investigators Try to Sort Real Tips from Noise

January 14, 2021by Stefanie Dazio and Michael Balsamo, Associated Press
Capitol Investigators Try to Sort Real Tips from Noise
A member of the Pennsylvania Capitol Police guards the entrance to the Pennsylvania Capitol Complex in Harrisburg, Pa. Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Potential threats and leads are pouring in to law enforcement agencies nationwide after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The challenge is now figuring out what’s real and what’s just noise.

Investigators are combing through a mountain of online posts, street surveillance and other intelligence, including information that suggests mobs could try to storm the Capitol again and threats to kill some members of Congress.

Security is being tightened from coast to coast. Thousands of National Guard troops are guarding the Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Governors and lawmakers are stepping up protections at statehouses after an FBI bulletin this week warned of threats to legislative sessions and other inaugural ceremonies.

A primary concern is the safety of members of Congress, particularly when they are traveling through airports, according to two U.S. officials briefed on the matter.

The FBI and other federal authorities use their substantial resources to prepare. But smaller local police departments lack the staff to hunt down every tip. They must rely heavily on state and federal assessments to inform their work, and that information sometimes slips through the cracks — which apparently happened last week.

A day before the deadly attack on the Capitol, the FBI sent an intelligence bulletin warning of potential violence to other agencies, including the Capitol Police. But officials either did not receive it or ignored it — and instead prepared for a free-speech protest, not a riot. It took nearly two hours for reinforcements to arrive to help disperse the mob. Five people died, including a Capitol officer.

“There are some grammar schools that are better protected than the Capitol,” said Brian Higgins, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and the former chief of a northern New Jersey police force.

Since last week, the FBI has opened 170 case files and received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media. The threats have ranged in specificity and complexity, according to officials briefed on them, making it difficult for authorities to determine which could be credible.

Combing through intelligence isn’t the same as shoe-leather detective work. Large departments like New York and Los Angeles have dedicated intelligence units — the NYPD even disseminated its own bulletin ahead of the riot. But smaller police forces rely on joint terrorism task forces and so-called fusion centers that were set up around the country after the 2001 attacks to improve communication between agencies.

Norton, Kansas, Police Chief Gerald Cullumber leads a seven-member department in the northwestern part of the state. He said he relies on larger agencies like the Kansas Highway Patrol because his agency is too small to do its own intelligence work. But Cullumber said he stays up to date on the latest information and briefs his officers.

“It doesn’t mean that we rest on our laurels,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we ignore things.”

Once they receive intelligence reports, it’s up to local agencies to plan and take action to keep their communities safe, said Rich Stanek, the former sheriff of Hennepin County in Minnesota who now works in consulting and started the Public Safety Strategies Group.

“If I was the sheriff today, I would be taking it very seriously,” he said. “If they told me Jan. 17 is the date, yeah, I think it’s reasonable to plan for one week ahead and one week behind.”

Mike Koval, who retired in 2019 as the police chief in Madison, Wisconsin, said his state’s two fusion centers have technology and resources that go far beyond those of a single local police department.

Staying on top of all the potential intelligence on the internet is like “going to a water fountain to get a drink of water, and it’s coming out with the strength of a fire hydrant and it will take your jaw off,” Koval said.

Meanwhile, elected officials nationwide, including President Donald Trump, have started to urge calm amid the threats. Trump egged on the riots during a speech at the Washington Monument, beseeching his loyalists to go to the Capitol as Congress was certifying Biden’s victory. He took no responsibility for the riot.

“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said in a statement Wednesday. “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”

Experts say explicit or implicit bias likely helped downplay last week’s threat because the protesters were white, and that must change, said Eric K. Ward, a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center and an expert on authoritarian movements and hate groups.

That could be why Capitol police were so unprepared, compared with the much more aggressive law enforcement response to last summer’s protests following the death of George Floyd and other Black men killed by law enforcement.

___

Dazio reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Amy Forliti and Doug Glass in Minneapolis, Michael R. Sisak in New York and Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

In The News

Health

Voting

Law Enforcement

November 3, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Abortion-Rights Protesters Arrested After Disrupting Supreme Court Hearing

WASHINGTON — Three female protesters were arrested Wednesday at the Supreme Court after interrupting a hearing to denounce the recent... Read More

WASHINGTON — Three female protesters were arrested Wednesday at the Supreme Court after interrupting a hearing to denounce the recent Dobbs decision that eliminated a constitutional right to abortion. The women stood up one after the other during the first minute of an unrelated tax case... Read More

November 1, 2022
by Dan McCue
Capitol Police Chief Says More Resources Needed to Protect Congress in 'Today's Political Climate'

WASHINGTON — After a review of last Friday’s attack on Paul Pelosi, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Tuesday... Read More

WASHINGTON — After a review of last Friday’s attack on Paul Pelosi, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Tuesday that that more resources are needed to provide additional layers of security for Members of Congress in today’s political climate. In a written statement, Manger said... Read More

October 31, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Security Agencies Warn of Violence Leading Up to Midterm Elections

WASHINGTON — U.S. security agencies are on heightened alert this week approaching the midterm elections on Nov. 8. The Department... Read More

WASHINGTON — U.S. security agencies are on heightened alert this week approaching the midterm elections on Nov. 8. The Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin after Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was attacked in their home on Friday and, in... Read More

October 25, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Maryland Reviews In-Custody Deaths After Suspicions About Cover-Ups

BALTIMORE — Maryland’s attorney general is ordering an audit of autopsies of people who died in law enforcement custody after... Read More

BALTIMORE — Maryland’s attorney general is ordering an audit of autopsies of people who died in law enforcement custody after a panel of experts determined the lab reports might have been tainted by political favoritism. The review will cover 100 autopsies in Maryland between 2002 and... Read More

October 20, 2022
by Dan McCue
80-Year-Old Georgia Man Faces Charges for Bringing Guns to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON — Tony Payne, 80, of Tunnel Hill, Georgia, is facing multiple gun charges Thursday morning after he illegally parked... Read More

WASHINGTON — Tony Payne, 80, of Tunnel Hill, Georgia, is facing multiple gun charges Thursday morning after he illegally parked his van on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon. U.S. Capitol police officers first noticed the white van was illegally parked on the 100... Read More

October 10, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Russian Policy Analyst’s Trial Starts on Charge of Lying About Trump Campaign

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A Russian public policy analyst is scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria,... Read More

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A Russian public policy analyst is scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on charges of lying to the FBI during the 2016 investigation of whether the Russian government tried to help Donald Trump get elected president. Igor... Read More

News From The Well