A day before protesters turned violent on Capitol Hill, one Virginia FBI office issued a warning that demonstrators were organizing to descend on the nation’s capital to commit violence and “war,” contradicting previous declarations that the bureau didn’t have any intelligence indicating potential violence.
According to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post, a situational information report was released one day before chaos erupted in the Capitol, explicitly warning of calls for violence, including details that individuals were sharing a map of the tunnels running underneath the federal building and rally points in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Washington.
“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington, D.C.,” the document says. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one law enforcement official said it was not an intelligence failure, but rather a failure of taking action on intelligence.
The report was produced within 45 minutes of obtaining the information, according to officials, and promptly shared with colleagues in Washington.
Steven D’Antuono, head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, had said law enforcement did not have any intelligence indicating the violence would occur; however, after the Post published the report, D’Antuono said the document was given to “all our law enforcement partners,” including the U.S. Capitol Police, the U.S. Park Police, D.C. police, and other federal and local agencies.
While D’Antuono did not disclose if the FBI or other agencies acted on the intel, he said, “That was a thread on a message board that was not attributable to an individual person.”
Outgoing Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said he never received the field bulletin, asserting he would have taken the warning seriously.
“I did not have that information, nor was that information taken into consideration in our security planning,” Sund said.
Sund reportedly asked House and Senate security for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be put on standby in the event that backup was needed in the days leading up to Wednesdays protest, but was blocked, The Washington Post reported.
According to Sund, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving told the chief that the “optics” of declaring an emergency made him uncomfortable. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger advised Sund to informally request the Guard instead.
“We knew it would be bigger,” Sund told the Post. “We looked at the intelligence. We knew we would have large crowds, the potential for some violent altercations. I had nothing indicating we would have a large mob seize the Capitol.”
Sund said his request for assistance would ultimately be denied or postponed six times. When the mob of protesters arrived at the Capitol, they managed to breach the perimeter within 15 minutes, he said.
Sund has since resigned his position as Capitol Police chief and was officially replaced on Friday.