Just a day before the Jan. 6 riot, the Secret Service warned the U.S. Capitol Police that their officers could face violence at the hands of supporters of former President Donald Trump, according to new documents reviewed by POLITICO.
The Secret Service’s emails shed light on intelligence lapses by the Capitol Police previously highlighted by both the department’s inspector general and a bipartisan report by Senate committees. Since then, the Hill's law enforcement agency has pledged reform and said it has made changes to ensure the effective sharing of intelligence.
The Capitol Police have argued that while many threats like the ones described in the Secret Service warnings circulated in the days before the attack, no intelligence suggested a large-scale assault on the level seen on Jan. 6.
The department did not respond to a request for comment from POLITICO. It is unclear how many officials in the Capitol Police department saw the warning.
The liberal-leaning government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request and shared them with POLITICO.
“On January 6th, our democracy was attacked, but we still know little of how it happened and what was done to protect the government,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for the organization. “These emails give a further look into the knowledge the Secret Service had in the lead up to the riot and show just how important it is for a thorough Congressional investigation to bring the truth to light.”
Just a day before the attack, the Secret Service sent a warning to Capitol Police about possible violence. That same day, a separate email circulated within the Secret Service detailing more threats to the officers in D.C. on Jan. 6.
The names of senders and recipients are redacted in the emails CREW obtained, as is often the case with documents obtained through FOIA. The only sender listed on the email sent to Capitol Police is “PIOC-ONDUTY.” PIOC appears to stand for Protective Intelligence Operations Center, a component mentioned in a 2017 USSS report. The email was sent to a redacted recipient with an “@uscp.gov” email address.
Its subject line is “[REDACTED] Officer Safety – 1/6 Demonstrations”.
“Per our Denver Field Office, a concerned citizen reported that [REDACTED] were flying into BWI today to attend tomorrow’s rally and ‘incite violence,’” the email begins. “In addition, the source reports that [REDACTED] previously made threats against President-Elect Biden. The source also reported that [REDACTED] was driving to DC with gear and weapons, to include ballistic helmets, armored gloves and vests, rifles, and suppressors.”
The email then gave specifics about the travelers' motives.
“The subjects claimed that they are in the area to protest election fraud, support President Trump, and acknowledged the possibility of violence if approached by counter-protesters,” the email said.
The email also refers to research from USSS/PID/OSB. USSS stands for U.S. Secret Service and PID stands for Protective Intelligence Division. It's unclear what OSB refers to.
Additionally, it includes a screenshot of a Facebook post from one of the people in question.
“We have an opportunity in Front of us to take back our country and abolish the deep state once and for all,” the post says. “Call me some right wing conspiracy theorist if you will I don’t give a [f—] I read the Facts and I study history.”
The ultimate threat to officers was exponentially larger than this single Secret Service email indicated.
The Capitol Police officers who assembled at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were woefully unprepared for the mob that overwhelmed them and swarmed into the building. In the chaos, dozens of officers were bludgeoned, stabbed or injured by rioters. One Capitol Police officer died in the days after the attack, and another died by suicide in the days after. Three members of the Metropolitan Police Department who responded on Jan. 6 have died by suicide.
“That day continues to be a constant trauma for us literally every day, whether because of physical or emotional injuries or both,” Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell told lawmakers in a late July hearing where officers described the violence they experienced on Jan. 6.
A second Secret Service email reviewed by POLITICO detailed more threats to police officers working in D.C. The email was sent by a person in USSS’s Protective Intelligence Division to people at the department's Protective Intelligence Operations Center and what appears to be the Open Source Unit of DHS.
Its subject line was, “Discovery of multiple threatening Parler Posts directed at DC Police regarding January 6th, 2021 protests”. The sender asked the recipients to “please forward to the necessary entities.” It isn’t clear if the warning was forwarded to Capitol Police.
The Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. The Secret Service declined to comment on its intelligence sharing.
The email said that a person using Parler — a social media network popular among conservatives and used by some rioters to plan the attack — posted multiple threats toward D.C. police on Jan. 5.
“While the subject appears to be targeting MPDC, the subject calls for violence against any law enforcement in DC that ‘sides with the enemy,’” the Secret Service email reads.
The email then went into detail.
“The user posted multiple threatening posts from today (01/05/21) to include, ‘Its time the DC Police get their ass whooped for being traitors in our nations capitol’, ‘DC Police are the enemy of the people. No mercy to them on the 6th. They are not on our side’, ‘time to fight! We cant trust the police, the laws, or the politicians. It’s time to take out all of them to remain a free country on the 6th.’ And ‘The police need to be dealth with on the 6th. Our 2A covers Marxist police officers. If they want a war, they will get one Wednesday. (middle finger emoji) the DC police.”
The email then ended abruptly.
“No further research was conducted,” it read. “If the PIOC requests further research, please send a request to OSU-OnDuty.”
The congressional select committee investigating Jan. 6 held its first hearing in July on the dangers Capitol Police faced that day. But these documents show there may be much more to learn about which U.S. government entities sounded the alarm and why top law enforcement officials didn’t heed their warnings.
The select committee established by House Democrats has not yet scheduled its next hearing, but this week indicated that it will be sending requests to telecommunications and social media companies asking them to preserve communications records related to the attack, including those of members of Congress.
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