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GAO: 10 federal agencies identified potential threats before Jan. 6 attack

Supporters of President Donald Trump riot against the Electoral College vote count on January 6, 2021, in protest of Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden, prompting a lockdown of the Capitol Building. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

March 1 (UPI) -- Ten federal agencies identified potential threats of violence in the weeks prior to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, but their ability to protect the building was impeded as some failed to properly review the threats or share that information, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO on Tuesday published its seventh report examining the attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, finding that all 10 federal agencies it reviewed identified potential threats of violence from various sources, including social media tips, arrests and investigations.

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Seven of those 10 agencies produced a total of 27 "threat products" concerning events related to Jan. 6, 2021, the GAO said. Of those threat products, 14 included an assessment of the likelihood that violence could occur, with the FBI and Capitol Police being the only two federal agencies to identify threats that were credible and took investigative action to address them.

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Some agencies, however, were found to have failed to fully process the threat information they had received or share it with partners, the GAO said.

The report found that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis did not consistently follow agency policies or procedures for processing tips or potential threats as they lacked controls to ensure compliance with policies.

It said FBI personnel failing to follow policies for processing tips resulted in them not being developed into threat reports that could be shared with party agencies.

"Specifically, the FBI did not process all relevant information related to potential violence on Jan. 6," it said.

The relevant information that wasn't processed included tips on counterterrorism threats that the FBI San Antonio Field Office received from Parler, a social media platform popular with conservatives.

Parler, it said, shared posts regarding potential violence on Jan. 6 with the field office from late November until the attack. In total, Parler sent the office 45 emails concerning counterterrorism threats, of which information from only nine were used to develop or add to threat documents.

"The FBI did not ensure personnel consistently followed its policies and procedures for processing information related to potential violence on Jan. 6 it obtained from Parler," the GAO said in its report. "If the FBI does not process tips or information according to policy and procedures, information can get lost or may not be developed into threat products that the FBI can share with partners."

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The report also found that the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis also identified potential threats but did not process some of that information into threat products as required by policy.

The department had obtained open source information on threats to law enforcement and potential violence in Washington from Dec. 21, 2020, through to Jan. 6, 2021, that weren't turned into reports because "they determined threats were not credible," the GAO said.

The federal agency was also found to have not consistently shared threat-related information with Capitol Police, while Capitol Police was found to have not included all relevant threat information from other agencies in its threat products developed for Jan. 6.

The report made 10 recommendations to five agencies that include assessing internal control of deficiencies related to the sharing of such information.

Capitol Police told UPI in a statement that all who were charged with protecting the Capitol region on Jan. 6 must learn from the mistakes committed to ensure such an attack never happens.

In response, Capitol Police has made dozens of changes, it said.

"The department expected and planned for violence from some protesters with ties to domestic terrorist organizations, but nobody in the law enforcement or intelligence communities imagined, on top of that threat, Americans who were not affiliated with those groups would cause the mayhem to metastasize to a volume uncontrollable for any single law enforcement agency," Capitol Police said.

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"Even with the assistance of multiple law enforcement agencies and the national Guard, which more than doubled the size of the department's sworn workforce, it took several hours to secure the Capitol."

Larissa Knapp, executive assistant director for the national security branch, told the GAO in a letter that the FBI is working to incorporate its recommendations while acknowledging that the federal agency "did not process all relevant information related to potential violence on Jan. 6."

"Our goal is always to disrupt and stay ahead of the threat, and we are constantly trying to learn and evaluate what we could have done better or differently, this is especially true of the attack on the Capitol," Knapp said.

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