In the last few days of 2022, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol released its final report, the culmination of nearly 18 months of investigative work aimed at analyzing the facts, circumstances, and causes of the events of Jan. 6, 2021. While the inherent value of this 845-page report to the public record is unquestionable, significant questions remain largely unanswered around two interrelated components of the committee’s investigation: the scope of law enforcement and intelligence failures preceding the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and what concrete steps should be taken to combat both those failures and the rising threat of domestic violent extremism in the aftermath of January 6th.
One of the committee’s three enumerated purposes was the examination and evaluation of evidence developed by government agencies “regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol and targeted violence and domestic terrorism relevant to such terrorist attack.” The report did so in the executive summary, finding that “the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies did successfully detect the planning for potential violence on January 6th, including planning specifically by the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys militia groups who ultimately led the attack on the Capitol. As January 6th approached, the intelligence specifically identified the potential for violence at the U.S. Capitol.”
The report’s chapter on violent extremism, “Be There, Will Be Wild!” lays out a clear and robust summation of the facts known surrounding the violent extremist mobilization that ended in the attack on the Capitol. This chapter provides a clear chronological overview of the role of the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Groypers and other extremists in the events of Jan. 6, including the extensive operational planning by Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio. Rhodes was recently convicted on seditious conspiracy charges related to this conduct, while Tarrio and his Proud Boys co-defendants are set to face their own seditious conspiracy charges at trial in the coming weeks.
Despite this detailed information about the premeditation on the part of violent extremists organizations, the report’s finding that intelligence indicated that groups were planning to “occupy the [Capitol] to halt the vote” was caveated in a subsequent footnote that, given the timing of receipt of much of this intelligence “immediately in advance of January 6th, it is unclear that any comprehensive intelligence community analytical product could have been reasonably expected.” While, to be sure, some information was received by law enforcement up to the eve of Jan. 6, to suggest it was brought to the attention of officials too late to respond is a fundamental mischaracterization of the evidence at hand.