U.S. News

Ex-national senior security officials call for Capitol attack commission

By Darryl Coote   |   April 6, 2021 at 11:31 PM
Former senior national security officials said the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol building expose severe vulnerabilities in the nation's preparedness for preventing domestic terrorist attacks. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

April 6 (UPI) -- A bipartisan group of dozens of former senior national security, military and elected officials urged Congress on Tuesday to launch a 9/11-type commission into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that they see as part of "an exigent and growing" domestic terrorism threat.

The 140 officials including three former Pentagon chiefs Chuck Hagel, William Perry and William Cohen requested the launch of the independent bipartisan commission in a letter sent to members of Congress three months to the day when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., in a failed effort to prevent the election win of then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The siege resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer. Another some 140 officers were injured. More than 250 people have been charged in federal court for their involvement, including members of White supremacy and conspiracy theory-fueled groups the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and adherents to QAnon, according to The George Washing University's Program on Extremism. The FBI is also actively asking the public near daily for tips that would lead to the arrest of others.

The former senior officials said the attack was the result of complex national security threats a commission would investigate to understand its causes and make recommendations to prevent further assaults and to strengthen the United States' democratic institutions.

"A failure to deploy the full suite of tools available to fully understand Jan. 6th and address its causes will leave the Capitol, and the nation, vulnerable to future attacks," they wrote. "In bipartisan fashion, we have successfully marshaled these tools before, and we implore you to do so once again."

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called for a 9/11-type commission into the attack in early February, but efforts to launch one have stalled in Congress after Democrats and Republicans failed to agree over its makeup and scope.

Pelosi' bill for the commission calls for a 7-4 Democrat majority with three members to be picked by President Biden, two by herself, two by Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; two by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; and two by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The Republican minority leaders have demanded the commission to be split evenly along party lines.

On March 25, Pelosi told reporters during a press conference that she is committed to finding out the truth of Jan. 6, preferably through a bipartisan commission but she has other means if necessary.

"You're making a fuss about the numbers and this, that. That's all negotiable. That's incidental. What is important is that the Republicans have said they didn't want any findings," she said.

She said she'd "love" for the commission to be as bipartisan as possible but said Congres has other "paths" to address the issue if they are unable to agree to something similar to the 9/11 commission.

In October before the siege, the Department of Homeland Security described ideologically motivated lone offenders and small groups in a report as posing a "likely terrorist threat" to the United States with domestic extremists "presenting the most persistent and lethal threat."

Following the attack, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress in March that the siege was not an isolated incident and that "the problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing" throughout the country for some time.

The former senior officials in their letter Tuesday argued a bipartisan commission can bring the events of Jan. 6 into full picture as well as its causes from which recommendations can be made.

"Given the gravity of Jan. 6th as a national security matter -- the violent disruption to the transition of power and the continuing threat of future attacks -- a national commission examining the lead up to the Jan. 6th assault, and the attendant security lapses, is not only appropriate, but a critical component of the national response."