The mob of pro-Trump supporters who invaded the US Capitol came “prepared for war”, a former police chief has told Congress.
Steven Sund was among several former and current law enforcement officials questioned Wednesday morning (Australian time) on the security failures that allowed hundreds of rioters to breach police barricades and vandalise what is arguably the US’ most iconic building.
Mr Sund, former head of US Capitol Police who resigned over the January 6 riots in Washington DC, said there was evidence of “significant coordination” among insurrectionists to carry out the attack.
“These criminals came prepared for war,” he told the Senate hearing on Wednesday morning (Australian time).
“They came with their own radio system to coordinate the attack, as well as climbing gear and other equipment to defeat the Capitol’s security features,” he continued.
In his almost 30-year career as an officer, Mr Sund said he has never seen a worse attack on law enforcement.
“These criminals came prepared for war,” he said.
Mr Sund said rioters had gone so far as to plant bombs nearby to distract police from the assault on the Capitol.
The fact they attacked the West Front about 20 minutes before the Ellipse rally, at which Mr Trump urged supporters to march to the Capitol, “means they were planning on our agency not being at what they call full strength”, Mr Sund said.
And the two pipe bombs discovered near the Capitol shortly before the mob stormed the building were “set off the edge of our perimeter to, what I suspect, draw resources away”, he added.
“I think there was a significant coordination with this attack.”
Mr Sund as well as all other top Capitol security officials who testified at the Senate hearing agreed that white supremacists and extremist groups were involved in the attack.
DC Metropolitan Police Acting Chief Robert Contee said he was “stunned” at the Army’s hesitation to deploy the National Guard.
Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar noted there was a structural problem with how the police chief had to go to the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms for approval.
“To have that structure where in a crisis he’s trying to go to them, while they’re trying to protect the members, it doesn’t really make any sense at all,” Ms Klobuchar said.
She said the structure of the Capitol police force had to change.
“It doesn’t mean have the board, you want someone to supervise, but not those day-to-day decisions, the emergency decisions.”
To make matters more difficult for police officers that fateful day, Senator Gary Peters said an FBI report which contained “troubling” information had been given to US Capitol Police headquarters the day before the attack, but leaders within the department never received it.
“How can you not get that vital intelligence on the eve of what’s going to be a major event?,” Mr Peters asked, adding that it was “clearly a major problem.”
Ex-police chief Mr Sund said that information would have been helpful.
“I agree that’s something we need to look at. What’s the process and how do we streamline?” he said.
Ms Klobuchar acknowledged “there were clearly intelligence issues with information that was out there that didn’t get to the right people”.
Pentagon officials will testify on the attack in a Senate hearing next week.