Beyer, Wexton lead inquiry into DHS, FBI handling of threats ahead of Capitol attack
Virginia Democrats Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton led 35 members of Congress in seeking answers from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI regarding the departments’ digital threat monitoring prior to the deadly insurrection at the United States Capitol.
In the preceding days and weeks there were thousands of posts online and on social media pointing to violence at the U.S. Capitol.
“We write today regarding the violent insurrectionist acts that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, and for information into your agencies’ actions leading up to and understanding of the digital environment surrounding the attack. While it is clear that the mob of domestic terrorists, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists was directly incited by President Trump at his preceding rally on the National Mall, many of these extremists were already communicating online and on social media about potential violence and plans to occupy the United States Capitol building in the days and weeks before it unfolded.
“Fundamentally, we are concerned that law enforcement was seemingly unprepared for the mob that descended on the Capitol on January 6, despite the hundreds of thousands of posts spread about it publicly online. It is implausible that the federal law enforcement agencies tasked with defending the United States against acts of terrorism would not have been aware of and tracking the online ecosystem leading up to this attack. To that end, we respectfully request a response to the following questions by January 15, 2021, and include if necessary, a classified addendum.”
The mob that attacked the Capitol this week was openly communicating online and on social media about potential violence, including specifically discussing plans to occupy the U.S. Capitol building. Many threatened violence, with some even wearing custom shirts to the riot emblazoned with “MAGA Civil War, January 6, 2021.” The FBI has designated anti-government fringe political conspiracy theorists a domestic terror threat.
Beyer has led past efforts by Congress to address white nationalist extremism, including a letter in 2019 asking DHS and the FBI about the Trump administration’s attempts to weaken the federal response to white supremacist extremism, and is the sponsor of the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act.