WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Richard Shelby (R-AL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sent a letter to Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman of the U.S. Capitol Police expressing concern with the lack of justification for “intrusive” fencing at the U.S. Capitol, which they described as “disproportionate to the available intelligence,” and requesting additional information regarding the need for ongoing security measures.
“We are very grateful for the U.S. Capitol Police’s heroic efforts to keep congressional members and staff safe during the January 6, 2021, attack and understand the challenging environment in which the Capitol Police have been operating since then… We are also concerned about numerous recent decisions made by the Capitol Police leadership related to Capitol security,” the senators wrote. “Since the events of January 6, Capitol Police has repeatedly failed to provide specific, credible threat intelligence to adequately justify the current Capitol security posture, which remains disproportionate to the available intelligence.”
“Our National Guard troops, who serve with great honor and distinction, are not law enforcement officers, and we will not abide the continued militarization of Capitol complex security,” the senators continued. “Instead, we strongly believe that the future of a secure and open Capitol complex lies with internal reform, creative thinking, and improvements made by the Capitol Police, in conjunction with other federal and local civilian law enforcement agencies.”
The senators requested that Acting Chief Pittman respond to a series of questions regarding the security needs of the Capitol Complex to address their concerns.
The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Acting Chief Pittman,
We are very grateful for the U.S. Capitol Police’s heroic efforts to keep congressional members and staff safe during the January 6, 2021 attack and understand the challenging environment in which the Capitol Police have been operating since then. We are aware of the unprecedented sacrifices that the Capitol Police have made since that horrible day, as well as the stresses that this has created for the force, and we mourn the loss of Officer Brian Sicknick and Officer Howard Liebengood.
We are also concerned about numerous recent decisions made by the Capitol Police leadership related to Capitol security. Since the events of January 6th, Capitol Police has repeatedly failed to provide specific, credible threat intelligence to adequately justify the current Capitol security posture, which remains disproportionate to the available intelligence. This is most evident as it relates to the continued presence of intrusive fencing on the Capitol Grounds and to the continued burdensome deployment of National Guardsmen from across the country.
As it relates to fencing, it is entirely unclear to us why the fencing around the complex remains, given the absence of any current specific threat to the Capitol and given the ability to rapidly re-deploy fencing should that threat posture change. Strangely, though, recent indications are that the physical barriers currently surrounding the Capitol are mere placeholders pending the permanent installation of similar barricades across the complex. Members of Congress, on a bipartisan, bicameral basis, and D.C. city officials and residents have long resisted efforts to make such fencing a permanent feature of the Capitol landscape. This fence sends a terrible message to American citizens, as well as to our allies and adversaries, and it is not a long-term security solution.
As for the deployment of the Guard, although there is no specific underlying threat intelligence and no mission task analysis, the Pentagon, with little apparent questioning of the justification, approved a Capitol Police request for 2,280 National Guard personnel to remain deployed to the Capitol complex through May 23, 2021. This request will cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars and further strain the Guard and its brave men and women. We are concerned about the lack of evidence for the Capitol Police justification in its March 4 Request for Assistance that “the experience of USCP…is that most demonstration and large incidents requiring police actions, particularly those involving deadly force, occur without any intelligence. Often, when there is intelligence of a large group developing it is with minimal notice.” This statement evinces the lack of a formalized risk analysis function in the Capitol Police, particularly given the history of large gatherings in the District of Columbia, which are often permitted, covered extensively in the news, and formally noted by one or more law enforcement intelligence functions at differing levels of concern.
Our National Guard personnel, who serve with great honor and distinction, are not law enforcement officers, and we will not abide the continued militarization of Capitol complex security. Instead, we strongly believe that the future of a secure and open Capitol complex lies with internal reform, creative thinking, and improvements made by the Capitol Police, in conjunction with other federal and local civilian law enforcement agencies.
We appreciate that the security needs of the Capitol complex are unique given the widely shared belief that the Complex should be open to the American public. And we are cognizant of the generally heightened threat environment in which you are operating. Domestic and foreign threat actors will continue to change their tactics, however, and we must consider security improvements that respond to a broad range of threats and challenges across the Capitol complex and the National Capital Region. We cannot allow the failure of imagination prior to January 6th to occur again.
Given these concerns, we request responses to the following questions no later than Friday, March 19, and further request a meeting to discuss the future of Capitol complex security. We also understand that DOD asked USCP to hold weekly meetings to develop a plan by April 9 to reduce USCP reliance on the National Guard. Please keep our staffs briefed on the outcomes of the weekly meetings.
- What intelligence did Capitol Police receive in advance of January 6th regarding the potential for violence on that day? How many times, in what format, and from whom did Capitol Police receive the intelligence? What did Capitol Police do with the intelligence once it was provided? What lessons have Capitol Police learned from its treatment of the intelligence received in advance of the 6th, and what steps have Capitol Police taken to ensure that future intelligence is received, processed, and acted on differently?
- What is the current justification for the perimeter (inner and outer) fencing surrounding the Capitol Grounds? If the Architect of the Capitol has the ability to redeploy fencing within hours of a specific threat to the Capitol becoming known, why is the current fencing still in place? Does the Capitol Police support the permanent installation of fencing around part or all of the Capitol Grounds? If so, why?
- When did the Capitol Police last conduct a mission requirements/force structure analysis? What analysis underlies the mission tasking of National Guard units?
- Could a significant portion of currently deployed National Guard standing watch be replaced by modern surveillance capabilities? Has Capitol Police queried Customs and Border Patrol on its integrated surveillance and security solutions?
- What changes to Capitol Police leadership training are being considered, if any? What specifically are these changes intended to address, both retroactively and prospectively?
- How does Capitol Police integrate best practices from and leverage relationships with other federal law enforcement agencies? How does Capitol Police evaluate the rapid-response effort by Metropolitan Police Department forces on January 6th?
- What changes to its force structure has Capitol Police implemented in response to the events of January 6th? How would those changes better position Capitol Police to identify and respond to a future threat like that presented in days leading up to and on January 6th? What additional changes is Capitol Police considering, other than the hiring of hundreds of new officers, to better position the force and bolster the security of the complex?
We thank you again for your service, and are eager to work with you on a new Capitol security plan.*