The Most Important Question No One Asks About J6

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 11/29/2023

If one were to believe that Jan. 6 would be violent, one of the most pressing questions about how it was is still unanswered. Why was it never designated as a National Special Security Event (NSSE)? Why were 2000 people able to "breach" the Capitol when pretty much everyone knew in advance that the crowds would be massive and possibly non-peaceful? According to the U.S. Office of Government Accountability (GAO), it would have been sensible to pre-designate J6 as an NSSE or even as a "Special Event Assessment Rating" (SEAR).

The GAO's August Capitol Attack report states, "NSSEs occur on an infrequent basis and
require extensive federal planning due to their national significance. In
comparison, SEAR events happen more frequently and are typically preplanned
by state and local entities. SEAR events can also be nationally significant but
are considered lower risk than an NSSE and require less federal
coordination and support. From 2017 to 2021, DHS designated 13 total NSSE events, eight of which occurred in the Washington, D.C. area."

NSEE versus SEAR/GAO August 2021/

NSSE are events considered by DHS and other federal agencies that might require coordinated and enhanced security. Instead, the Capitol Police, a force that is unprepared for riot control, seems to have been left to its own devices during most of the Capitol protests on Jan. 6.

House Republican Report/D.C. Capitol Police interviews

What Was Going on at the Time?

According to most reports, about 2000 people entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Oddly, the total number of protesters present in D.C. on Jan. 6 is unknown. It is very hard to believe the final number of those in attendance is unknown, given how accurate the intelligence community can be with its cellphone data collection. It is almost guaranteed that someone in the government knows the number. Nevertheless, media reports estimate 10,000 to 80,000 people were at the Capitol after Trump's speech. Having been there myself, I believe the final number was probably on the higher end, especially if you experienced the crowds in D.C. that day. Whatever that final number was, it is clear that a small minority of people entered the Capitol, and an even smaller minority were violent or caused damage.

The honest person would have told you at the time that the crowds were expected to be overwhelming on Jan. 6. Social media, statements from President Trump, and public sentiment about the 2020 election all pointed toward large crowds. The GAO investigation seems to admit that contextual events and even expected crowds could easily have triggered an NSSE.

There was undoubtedly adequate intelligence in the months prior to the J6 protests to warrant a coordinated response to any number of possible unfortunate events that might unfold. This chronology of events related to J6 published by the left-leaning National Security Archive certainly seems to indicate that the DoD, the White House, and the media all knew well in advance there would be huge crowds at the Capitol that might require coordinated security. The GAO also published a timeline of open-source, shared data "obtained and shared" by various agencies in advance of Jan. 6.

It should also be noted that Mayor Bowser refused to use additional law enforcement like the National Guard. She and others were worried about firing up emergency orders in advance of the day. Apparently, she was concerned with the optics of looking too militaristic.

For that reason, the National Guard was not deployed until 3 p.m. And, while rumors are floating around on the internet that Trump did not authorize additional forces like the National Guard to support law enforcement, he actually did. Kash Patel, the DoD Chief of Staff at the time, says the President authorized the use of the National Guard two days prior. Patel shared documentation of the authorization with the J6 Commission. He also confirmed Mayor Bowser refused reinforcements from the National Guard.

Violence Expected, So Why Not Designate NSSE?

So why did 2000 people gain access to the Capitol in the first place? If you genuinely believe President Trump had plans to incite a riothe didn't—in his efforts to "subvert the election" or that his supporters are domestic terrorists prone to violence, then why wouldn't you secure the Capitol with every available resource and tool? Wouldn't you sincerely want to activate every possible security measure to protect Congress, the Vice President, and President Trump? The excerpt from the Executive Summary from the unbelievably biased report from the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol shows in plain language what many in Congress believe were the intentions of Trump and his supporters on Jan. 6. The report concludes that the "risk to the Capitol was foreseeable.":

Excerpts from Executive Summary/J6 Committee

The FBI was also clearly preparing for possible violence. In his statement for the record on J6 in June 2021, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the "FBI authored approximately 12 intelligence products...disseminating trends we say in threat reporting and criminal activity involving domestic violent extremism...with observed activity that led us to assess there was potential for increased violent extremist activity at lawful protests taking place in communities across the United States." Some of those "products" and analytical reports found that "DVEs with partisan political grievances likely posed an increased threat related to the 2020 election," according to Wray. The FBI had special agents, including bomb technicians, deployed around the city that day.

In reading through the various summary assessment reviews of Jan. 6 from law enforcement entities, the DoD, and Congressional committees, it seems that the primary security failures of the day have to do more with coordination and leadership than anything else. An NSSE designation would have been a logical choice.

The truth is J6 was never designated by the DHS as an NSSE, confirms FBI agent Kyle Seraphin. Seraphin told UncoverDC the NSSE is an "incident management program specifically tailored for the Capitol Region because there are so many federal agencies in the interplay. It is what we do best. It is a [well-oiled system] that is tailor-made for events on the scale of Jan. 6. We use it for inaugurations and the 4th of July." NSSE, in particular, immediately "unlocks federal funding," the manpower and coordination necessary for events exactly like the one that was expected to unfold on Jan. 6.

Seraphin elaborates on what an NSSE designation looks like logistically:

"The Secret Service takes the lead. They run the whole event, and they sub out to people in their specialty areas. So the physical security of the Capitol is the responsibility of the Capitol police, and they report what they have and what's going on and what they need to see your service. The roads, the structures, the inbound and egress routes for all are handled by Metropolitan Police. Any riot response is handled by Metropolitan Police, and they coordinate with the Secret Service. They tell the Secret Service what they've got—where they're able to deploy.

The FBI does investigate on the scene, interviewing people as needed. They watch, they cover the local surveillance role, and, when necessary, they have tactical operations that are capable of going and performing. SWAT teams are on standby. Snipers are stationed and report to the Secret Service. They put teams in the water. Teams are put on the ground to look for dirty bombs, devices, and so on. They team up with the FBI's counter-IED team. U.S. Park Police are activated.

Protection, route management, it's what happens. It is routine and normal stuff. Even the National Guard falls under Secret Service when NSSE happens. FEMA's National Incident Management (NIMS) teams are activated. Assets are everywhere. Investigative assets are monitored by GPS in what's called Blue Force tracking so everyone in the command post can see in real-time what is happening on the ground. Investigative assets carry a phone with a program that allows them to log in to a server, so everyone knows what is going on in real-time."

GAO August 2021 Capitol Attack Report/

GAO Investigation Finds NSSE Should Have Been Considered

The GAO has published a series of reports on the "Capitol Attack," where it reviewed the actions of 10 federal agencies involved in identifying threats before Jan. 6. Among its conclusions were deficits in "emergency procedures and comprehensive security risk assessments" by the Capitol Police and a failure to "fully process information or share it, preventing critical information from reaching key federal entities responsible for securing the National Capital Region against threats."

The GAO's August 2021 Report on the "Capitol Attack"

One of the more critical reports by GAO is the August 2021 report 21-105255. This concludes that neither NSSE nor SEAR was activated mainly because "not all DHS guidance is clear." GAO seems to imply in multiple places throughout the report that NSSE could have been designated. Still, poor definitions of what constitutes an emergency caused enough confusion to prevent leadership from making common-sense decisions.

There were no permitted events allowed on Jan. 6 because of the pandemic. However, GAO looked at three events that day for possible NSSE designation; a non-permitted protest at the Capitol, the scheduled Presidential rally at the Ellipse, and the Joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 election results at the U.S. Capitol. They were all significant events, and the Vice President or the President was scheduled to be present at two of them.


In the end, it seems DHS criteria and a need for a greater lead time were what got in the way of the NSSE designation by DHS. However, given that two involved either the V.P. or the President, large crowds were expected, AND it seems leadership in D.C. (Pelosi and others) were worried Trump supporters would show up with pitchforks, the lack of NSSE designation is puzzling at best.

The House Republicans published a 141-page report in December 2022 substantiated by emails and interviews with Capitol Police and "analysts in USCP's intelligence division," some of whom were "undermined by the misplaced priorities of their leadership." The report says Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership were pressuring subordinates. The politics of making Trump and his supporters look bad at the expense of others' safety may have factored into decisions made.

Among its key findings, the House Sargeant at Arms Paul Irving "took direction from staff in the Office of the Speaker of the House and intentionally excluded Republicans from key meetings and conversations related to House security." He also stated that "Jan. 6 was Pelosi's fault." Optics, changes in leadership coordination, retaliation against subordinates who would speak out, USCP's inadequate preparation, and protective equipment were also among the failures, according to the Republican report.

House R report/

As a whole, the GAO's investigation concluded the Department of Homeland Security should "rework its security protocols" in light of what happened on Jan. 6. Specifically, DHS should "increase the factors it uses" to designate an event as one that requires higher levels of security and coordination.

Triana McNeil, a spokeswoman for the GAO, said, "context and the current threat environment" should be added to DHS's list of factors as it considers an NSSE designation, even though DHS pushed back, saying they already do that. McNeil also stated DHS should clarify in a public-facing way "who can request an NSSE in the District of Columbia on federal property." 


The DHS disagreed, in part blaming the security failures on the Capitol Police, a law enforcement entity that is not trained for enhanced security events. Incidentally, DHS admitted it did not share certain threat information with the Capitol Police because it "did not view the police force as part of the intelligence community, despite its ability to receive classified intelligence." Former Capitol Police officer Chris Palombi gives his perspective on the day in a recent interview below:


The DHS disagreed with GAO's assessment by stating DHS needs more lead time to make an NSSE designation, even though it was extremely agile in 2015 during a fluidly changing visit from the Pope, according to McNeil. McNeil stated the pushback from the DHS was "confusing" because the recommendations from the GAO were "extremely easy lifts." One such recommendation is to look at an expansion of the events DHS considers to be high-security events. The certification of an election may no longer be a "routine, normal business," requiring the certification of elections to be added to the list of pre-designated NSSEs.

Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police

To clarify, the two largest primary law enforcement entities responsible for security that day were the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) and the United States Capitol Police (USCP). The D.C. police were responsible for security in the city, and the Capitol police were responsible for the U.S. Capitol complex consisting of "approximately twenty buildings spread across roughly two square miles in Washington, D.C."

The MPDC and USCP each had their own robust security plans and hefty budgets to support them. Still, a number of other entities and people influenced decisions made that day, including entities overseeing the Capitol police like the Capitol Police Board, the Senate and House Sergeant at Arms, and the Architect of the Capitol. Notably, the Capitol Police Board is authorized to appoint law enforcement officers from federal, state, and local agencies and the armed force (including the National Guard) to serve as Capitol Police officers, according to page 15 of the House Republican Report.

GAO report/

Intelligence Agencies like the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and eventually, the National Guard were all involved that day. Officers from the DoD, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the D.C. Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DCHSEMA), the Department of the Interior(DoI), the Mayor's office, and the Office of the President were also actively advising in advance of and during the protests per the 152-page report by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense (OIG).

Suffice it to say that there was a complex web of commanding forces involved both before and during the protests whose disjointed input or lack of communication may have impaired the agility of decision-making at critical points in the day. The OIG interviewed 44 witnesses for its report. All provided input prior to and during the events of that day. There is no question that coordination at the level of an NSSE designation would have gone a long way to prevent some of the confusion and chaos on Jan. 6. The real question is how did non-designation of NSSE serve D.C. leadership when most were anticipating a volatile event?

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