The Road to Jan 6 Final

Exclusive: Secret Service Intel Saw 'No Indication of Civil Disobedience'

In this daily series, Newsweek explores the steps that led to the January 6 Capitol Riot.

On January 4, five days after the request, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller approved the use of the D.C. National Guard in support of law enforcement in protection of the Capitol for the upcoming Joint Session of Congress, two days away. But a closer look at what Miller approved reveals how much the National Guard is a false issue, hiding the much larger question of the failure of the intelligence community to anticipate what would happen.

That reality was underlined a week ago, when the Pentagon announced that the rules were changing regarding use of the District of Columbia National Guard (DCNG), putting more authority in the hands of the Secretary, a move that the Defense Department said was intended to make the military more prepared to respond to incidents in the D.C. area.

The Pentagon—and by inference, the Donald Trump-appointed leadership—has been accused of slow-walking the urgent request for assistance on January 6 that came from the Capitol Police and the D.C. government. But the change was a streamlining that in reality changes nothing with regard to what really happened at the U.S. Capitol. There were never any Guardsmen or women ready or able to respond.

Donald Trump 2020 Presidential Campaign January 6
A Trump supporter in a colonial outfit cheers on others as they clash with police and security forces while attempting to storm the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

January 4 was a day of urgent meetings. At 9:00 a.m., Miller met with Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and other senior DOD leaders to discuss the D.C. National Guard role. Secretary McCarthy had submitted a letter with his recommendation to approve the "request for assistance," including many caveats for any military troops to be actively involved: There had to be a civil "lead federal agency" (in reality, either the Secret Service or the FBI) to coordinate the actions of all entities involved; and the demonstrations had to overwhelm to local and federal law enforcement agencies. McCarthy said that the D.C. National Guard was also not authorized to perform any tasks other than those authorized in his latter, specifically any armed tasks.

Miller orally concurred with McCarthy's recommendations; written confirmation to follow.

Kenneth P. Rapuano, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, then met with his staff, directing them to draft Miller's approval. The staff met.

McCarthy also met with the Army General Counsel to get concurrence. Then he had conversations with members of Congress, who stressed that they wanted National Guard members to prominently identify themselves, and they discussed whether soldiers would carry weapons.

At 10:45 a.m., McCarthy spoke to Metropolitan Police Department acting Chief Robert J. Contee III, telling him that the DCNG would fulfill their request. McCarthy said that the Guard would mobilize a total of 340 personnel, all unarmed, with no one posted east of 9th Street (approximately a half-mile west of Capitol Hill. No mission change could take place without his approval.

There were other meetings and events during the day: at 11:00, 12:42, 2:11, 2:28, and 2:41.

Across the Potomac, a "Task Force Guardian" commander was activated at the D.C. Armory to command the deploying units. He would report to the commander of something called the Joint Task Force District of Columbia and then to the head of the DCNG, Maj. Gen. William Walker.

At 4:41 p.m., Walker's office emailed an updated plan to subordinate officers and Army officials. At 5:00 p.m., Miller, Milley, McCarthy, and Walker met via teleconference with other agency officials (including the Attorney General) to go over threats, jurisdictions, and responses.

The FBI, according to Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker's "I Alone Can Fix It" "had no credible reports of dangerous threats ... The FBI flagged in a briefing later that afternoon that agents had seen an increase in violent rhetoric on social media ... but there was nothing specific they could act on."

The Department of Homeland Security, the attendees were told, had not issued an elevated or imminent alert.

The Secret Service reported that the hashtags #WeAreTheStorm, #1776Rebel, and #OccupyCapitol were gaining traction, that Trump supporters were proposing to occupy Capitol Hill.

According to the "Protective Intelligence Brief, March for Trump, January 4, 2021", exclusively obtained by Newsweek, the Secret Service pointed to a video by "Stop the Steal" inventor Ali Alexander urging individuals to bringing tents, food, sleeping bags and water.

"No organization efforts for events on January 6, 2021, have been identified on the dark web at this time," the Secret Service intelligence component wrote. The report listed at least 57 different groups are coming to Washington, including counter-demonstrators from 13 groups. The Secret Service concluded that there was "no indication of civil disobedience."

Donald Trump 2020 Presidential Campaign Capitol Riots
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. - Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

In the afternoon, a multi-agency teleconference was also hosted by the D.C. Police, and included the FBI, the Secret Service, the Park Police, Supreme Court Police, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and DC Fire & Emergency Medical Services. They discussed the first of three Daily Intelligence Reports from the Capitol Police. The report said that the probability of acts of civil disobedience was on a continuum from "Remote" to "Improbable."

"It [is] possible the Million Magi [sic] March folks could organize a demonstration on USCP grounds," the report said.

"We continue to monitor and investigate social media statements forecasting non-specific acts of violence in the District associated with events scheduled for 6 January 2021," the U.S. Park Police said in another intelligence report. It said that there was "the probability of sporadic violent actions ... if opposing groups are allowed to come into physical contact with each other."

But the report also said the Park Police had "no indication of any acts of violence being pre-planned by any specific individual(s) or groups."

At 5:30, Maj. Gen. Walker briefed Secretary McCarthy on his final plans for the DCNG. McCarthy told Miller that only he could authorize the deployment of a rapid reaction force. At 5:45, acting Secretary Miller spoke to acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen about the Justice Department taking over as the lead federal agency. They also discussed other highly classified matters regarding the "National Mission Force" assignments.

So: a lot of back-and-forth and meetings to prepare the military response, and yet the numbers were tiny, given the situation. The DCNG would provide a total 340 personnel, and that group would consist of a 20-person command element, two shifts providing loose "crowd control" at Metro stations and traffic control points, a 25-person "Civil Support Team" of hazardous device and weapons of mass destruction specialists, and a 40-person rapid reaction force.

In other words, on January 6 itself, a total of some 130 soldiers would be available during each 12-hour shift. As for the rapid reaction force, of the 40 Air National Guard personnel, 18 were helicopter pilots and aircrew and maintenance technicians required to move the force from Andrews air force base to the Capitol. Another eight were administrators. That left 16 security forces members—airmen with law enforcement who had previous experience with civil unrest.

So for all the talk of accelerating the National Guard's arrival at the Capitol, on the afternoon of January 6 some 130 soldiers, none of them armed, dispersed to more than two dozen locations, would have had to have been collected together and moved to the Capitol. If the rapid reaction force was called from Maryland, another 16 uniformed personnel would join them. This is all that was available quickly from the D.C. National Guard. The decision-making on the 6th might have been sluggish and even passive-aggressive, but in the end, it was only about 146 additional bodies to hold the line.