Members of the National Guard walk through the grounds of the U.S. Capitol following the completion of the second impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump on February 13. Brandon Bell / Getty Images hide the caption
Brandon Bell / Getty Images
Brandon Bell / Getty Images
When Bill Pickle reached his last day of work as Senate sergeant more than a decade ago, he strongly warned the leaders of Congress.
Pickle said the Capitol had security flaws that lawmakers have long ignored and that one day this could allow an attack.
It’s a topic that Pickle believes former security officials will share during their first public testimony in Congress since the Capitol Rebellion.
“I call it a systemic problem,” said Pickle, who served in the role from 2003-2007. “Congress has been approached over the years to do a better job.”
Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees expect to hear from the three former high-ranking Capitol security officers and current DC City Police Chief Robert Contee at the joint hearing on Tuesday.
Watch the hearing live starting at 10 p.m. ET.
Former U.S. Capitol Commissioner Steven Sund, Sergeant Paul Irving, and Senate Sergeant Michael Stenger, all have resigned from their posts after the siege of the Capitol at the request of top leaders of both parties.
Sund who said “Optics” prevented military support Before the Capitol was breached, he told NPR he looked forward to telling lawmakers his side of the story.
“I’m just there to tell you everything I know about what I knew back then and all the planning that I did back then,” said Sund on Monday.
“Everything lined up against her”
Healthy said NPR Last month, he suspected that pipe bombs discovered in the main offices of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee in southeast Washington were part of efforts to distract police when the violent mob approached the Capitol complex on the day of the siege.
Before January 6, Sund had said he was planning to have more than 1,000 officers on duty, or “all hands on deck”. Sund said he spoke to Irving about National Guard assistance on Jan. 4 but was turned down on “optics”. He said he was hoping to set up service members with police barricades along a larger perimeter.
Pickle, who remains in contact with two ex-NCOs Irving and Stenger, said Irving had been criticized for rejecting the application because of its appearance, but said Irving had a longstanding Capitol culture of calling for one deprecated military response.
“Politicians, and especially the leadership, are very reluctant to have a military presence on Capitol Hill,” said Pickle. “This is a political issue that for some reason the leaders of Congress don’t want to look at.”
According to Sund, the Capitol Police received no information about an orchestrated attack from the FBI or other agencies. It was later revealed The FBI was aware of extremist activity and said it shared a warning with its partners, including the Capitol Police.
Sund also said he was surprised at the bureaucracy that provoked a belated response from the National Guard. According to Pickle, Irving and Stenger were also likely surprised, and the problem is confused.
According to Pickle, Sund, Irving, and Stenger came up with the best plan they had under the circumstances.
“They had a good security plan. It was well staffed. They had considered the National Guard. They were certain that the National Guard would have … people standing by for them when needed,” Pickle said. But “that morning everything was against her.”
“We need to make changes”
Senator Amy Klobuchar, chairwoman of the Senate committee, said the chairs of her panel and homeland security committee had joined together in a non-partisan way to conduct one of several riot tests.
Tuesday’s testimony marks the start of their series of joint hearings that could last for the next few months, Klobuchar says. For example, the panels plan to next call the heads of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense to testify about the siege in the coming weeks.
“The answers to our questions at this Tuesday hearing, as well as future hearings, will really determine the solutions,” said Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat. “And we can’t wait to get those answers, as decisions have to be made about Capitol security, security with other agencies, future collaboration with the National Guard, and information sharing [U.S. Capitol] Police department. “
Klobuchar says information will determine how the Capitol’s security image can be improved going forward, adding that many “immediate decisions” must be made with the help of past and current leaders.
“We need to get this information right away in the next month or two,” she said. “We need to make changes to security now.”
Other lawmakers who chaired the hearing said it was clear that many factors contributed to the safety deficiencies.
“There is no question that a break in leadership, preparation and response on January 6th allowed local terrorists – including white supremacist and anti-government groups – to break through the Capitol to overthrow a free and fair election,” said Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
Peters says the hearings will also enable the American people to get the answers they deserve to understand what happened and will help lawmakers stop hate groups and other extremists from attacking the country again.
Rob Portman, Senator from Ohio, the top Republican on the panel, said he wanted to hear directly from the officials responsible for the security of the Capitol to better understand the life of then-Vice President Mike Pence, the member of Congress, who First responder and the employee was at risk.
“This will provide information on what reforms need to be implemented,” Portman said, “to ensure that nothing like January 6th ever happens again.”
When Pickle issued his stern warning on his last day at work, he thought of the 9/11 attacks and other security emergencies that threatened major destruction in the Capitol.
“I really believe that at some point in the future – and I don’t know in what form or in what form – we will fall victim again,” Pickle told The Hill in 2007, referring to previous attempts to make the Capitol a smaller or less successful one Aim to align frame.
At the time, Pickle envisioned a possible aircraft attack, or a chemical or biological attack. After Jan 6, Pickle says the same vulnerabilities he saw back then helped the violent mob.
Among them, Pickle says, he is one of a long line of security officers who have campaigned with lawmakers for decades to have a fence fenced off. Last month acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman repeated this call.
“One of the things that they haven’t done – and that has been the focus for at least 40 years – is the idea of building a fence around the Capitol,” Pickle said.
The longtime police officer who was formerly deputy director of intelligence said the White House, Pentagon and Capitol remained the top security threats. Of the three, however, the Capitol remains the least secure.
“Political people on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, say, ‘You know, this is the people’s house. We won’t be intimidated. We’ll keep it open,'” Pickle said. “That sounds good in a political speech. But here’s the reality: Because they are so naive and careless in their words, they enable bad people who want to wreak havoc to do bad things.”
In other words, law enforcement didn’t stand a chance on Jan. 6 with only bike racks between them and the Capitol, he says. A fence could have deterred the approaching mobs and given law enforcement time to hold back the crowd and make arrests.
Another problem, argues Pickle, is reporting to a security apparatus that reports to political leaders.
“So the police have a tough job. They have 535 bosses, and each of those bosses thinks they know them better than the police officers up there,” he said.
Sund can also agree.
“I know a number of groups are investigating this incident. I think they will find that this is a very complicated, bureaucratic way of maintaining security in the nation’s Capitol,” Sund said last month.
But Klobuchar disagrees. She says a board that includes NCOs overseeing the Capitol Police might be more of a problem.
“I don’t think we’ll find out that it’s just one thing,” said Klobuchar.
She added, “I just don’t think that chain of command seemed to work well. And maybe we need to make some changes to it. But I just don’t see it as the 535 bosses. When they hear a freshman congressman about their decisions, like To deal with a riot, contrary to their own views on security, that is a problem. “