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What Went Wrong and When for the Capitol Response

A timeline from the Wall Street Journal.

by Eric Holdeman / January 10, 2021

(Sunday, Jan. 10)

I know, you don't have a subscription. It is your problem. Which newspaper do you subscribe to? I was just telling my sister, who lives in Georgia, where her information was wrong because she doesn't read anything. You cannot be informed by watching just TV news or social media. There are no investigative pieces of merit that you will find there. How do you replace a 14,000 word New York Times story on President Trumps taxes with a one minute TV segment? 

If you want a "respected conservative paper" then consider the Wall Street Journal (I note that you can get 12 weeks for a dollar a week). Here is their article on the timeline leading up to the Capitol riot: "In Capitol Riot, Communications Between Agencies Hampered Forceful Response."

Personally, I would have chosen a different title for the article. Mine would be, "Riot Response Was a Failure of Intelligence and Planning." It all started there and cascaded downhill from a lack of planning. On Tuesday night, I did a blog post at a point when there was little information about what had gone down, see: "The Riot in the Capitol." My gut instinct was about right. When you have seen this all play out before, you can anticipate where the failures happened. 

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that the National Guard troops in the city were not a "ready force" prepared to respond at the Capitol. They were off doing traffic control and not "geared up" for a crowd response. There were also only 200 of them scattered around the city.

I appreciate that the FBI and ATF had put together a force of agents ready to respond when called upon. That made them more available and a more timely force. I can tell you that for the WTO Riot, which I call attention to above, it was deja vu all over again in D.C. The Pierce County Sheriff was told by Seattle Police that they didn't need any help for the WTO event. The sheriff, knowing that their planning assumption was faulty, on his own assembled a 40-person riot control unit and had them at the ready. The call from the Seattle Police came within an hour of the protest starting, asking for help.

If you do not plan and anticipate, then your ability to respond quickly is severely hampered. When someone says "Help, help," it will take hours and even days to respond to a request for help if you are flat-footed. People have to respond, they have to be equipped, transportation needs to be arranged, and then they have to travel to the response site and then have their use in response coordinated. All this takes time!

Where I would like to have been is as a fly on the wall at the National Capital Region (NCR). The NCR was established after 9/11 to help coordinate the plethora of agencies and jurisdictions that make up that part of the world. There are many, many agencies with different law enforcement capabilities.

In the 2005 Annual Report (15 years ago) to Congress, the NCR called out these two areas, among others:

Interoperability and Communications – Interoperability and exchange of information
continues to be a challenge which will require investments in fixed and mobile
communication infrastructure, data sharing mechanisms, equipment and training.
Response to recent incidents demonstrated improvements in communication. However,
much work remains to ensure timely and appropriate information is shared among
responsible regional stakeholders.

Integration & Coordination – Integration and coordination of public safety and
homeland security capabilities across multiple jurisdictions and disciplines is labor intensive.
Several issues await clarification and coordination. Investments in
personnel—at all levels of government—to perform integration and coordination

Let's make the assumption that people of good faith worked hard and solved many problems on the above, 15 years ago. The issue is that those people are likely, in the majority, all gone from their positions. There has to be a process of constant renewal of relationships, joint planning, training and exercises for it all to work when we have a crisis like there was this past week. 

Likely it will take almost a year for a commission or formal report to be written following hearings and testimony. More to come on this nefarious affair in the coming weeks and months. 


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