Federal agencies point to security improvements a year after Capitol attack

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Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the attack on the United States Capitol, the Department of Homeland Security shares how it has improved its intelligence operations, particularly those focused on domestic extremism.

Last year, on Jan. 6, swarms of protesters stormed the Capitol as lawmakers took certification of the 2020 presidential election, under then-Vice President Mike Pence. Then-President Trump refused to concede the election, saying there had been widespread fraud, leading to an unprecedented power transition between November and January, which is normally considered a bipartisan tradition. Over the past year, the security preparations of federal agencies and other law enforcement entities — and the lack thereof — have been the subject of investigations by Congress, the Inspector General and further investigations, as well as prosecutions.

“The Department of Homeland Security has no information indicating specific or credible threats related to the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol on January 6,” a DHS spokesperson said. government executive Wednesday. “Since the violent events of a year ago, DHS has strengthened its ability to detect, analyze and respond to threats. The men and women of our department remain vigilant in their national security mission, and we will continue to examine the threat environment and share information with the public and our partners.

According to a fact sheet shared with Government executive. DHS enhanced information sharing with federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector partners, resulting in more than 50 exchanges with them on possible and emerging threats.

Top Biden administration officials have informally concluded that the federal government’s lack of high-level information was a major misstep in preparing for the attack as well as the failure to imagine what would happen. could happen, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced an internal review in April 2021 to address possible threats from domestic extremism within the department. “More than 240,000 dedicated DHS employees carry out the department’s mission to protect the American people, our homeland, and our values,” so it’s “an important next step in ensuring that violent extremism does not undermine our ability to keep our communities safe and secure”. secure,” DHS said at the time.

Other actions undertaken by DHS are:

  • Released more than 80 domestic violent extremism intelligence products to inform the public of the latest threats, such as a Jan. 27 bulletin warning that elected officials and federal facilities could be targets;
  • Creation of the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnership to “expand the department’s capacity to prevent terrorism and targeted violence through the development of local prevention frameworks; »
  • For the first time, Mayorkas designated countering domestic violent extremism as a “national priority area” in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s grant programs, resulting in the spending of approximately $77 million. dollars in this area;
  • Worked with federal, state and local partners to strengthen the security of the National Capital Region;
  • Formed a task force to coordinate departmental efforts to address domestic violent extremism and violence against members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, then in September expanded to add more ‘others; and,
  • In fiscal year 2021, DHS awarded $180 million in grants through FEMA to improve the physical security of nonprofits, including places of worship, that are at risk.

DHS did not respond to government executive question about specific security preparations for the anniversary of Thursday’s attacks. However, as part of the preparations, DHS conducted 24/7 intelligence monitoring and determined if and where personnel deployments are needed. The Secret Service and the Federal Protective Service, both housed within DHS, have deployment plans if needed, a law enforcement official told CNN.

“DHS is coordinating with the FBI, Metropolitan Police Department, US Parks Police and Capitol Police to ensure adequate personnel and physical security measures are in place,” the official said, adding that they were monitoring intelligence indicators to see if they could identify the groups. of people who may travel to the area,” according to CNN’s report on Tuesday.

As for the Department of Defense, “to date, the department has not received any requests for assistance from our government partners in connection with the anniversary of the January 6 events,” said Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, door – speech of the department. government executive Wednesday.

Similar to DHS, Capitol Police released a report on Wednesday detailing improvements it has made since last year, such as updating equipment and personnel practices in line with best practices from other agencies. federal law enforcement.

“Unlike the agencies that protect the White House, the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency and other buildings, the [Capitol Police] protects a public institution that, except for COVID-19 restrictions, is regularly open to the public, who can freely access the buildings,” the report states.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said during an anniversary speech on Wednesday that “there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice” than holding those responsible for the responsible attack. The January 6 investigations are “the largest, most complex and most resource-intensive [ones] in our history,” which has been complicated by court closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Department-wide DoJ personnel in nearly all 56 field offices in nearly all 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices and in many major justice components worked countless hours investigating the attack,” Garland said. investigation.”

He thanked the more than 115,000 employees of the Ministry of Justice for their work since taking office, but also for the last years which have been marked by “unprecedented challenges”, including the pandemic.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, said in a statement on Tuesday that “the anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack is a stark reminder to us that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to strengthen our democracy.” Just hours after the attack, 147 Republican lawmakers voted to overturn the presidential election results, and a year later the former president and others still challenged the results. In addition, many states have passed more restrictive election laws over the past year.

“Lawmakers must pass pro-democracy reforms, like those in the Protecting Our Democracy Act, to check rampant presidential power and increase federal government accountability,” Brian said. “Only with comprehensive reform to protect our elections and our system of checks and balances can our democracy overcome this onslaught.”

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