May 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Federal agencies saw potential for violence ahead of Capitol riot

Trump supporters stand on the U.S. Capitol Police armored vehicle

Trump supporters stand on a U.S. Capitol Police armored vehicle as others take over the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

A number of federal agencies obtained open source data ahead of the Capitol riot that indicated a potential for violence and criminal activity on Jan. 6, according to a new report published Monday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Why it matters: Signs of potential violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, appeared online "months prior to the attack," according to the report, which cites information gathered by several federal agencies in the lead-up to the deadly insurrection.

Driving the news: Federal agencies — including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Capitol Police — gathered the information through publicly available material online, including social media posts.

  • "All 10 selected agencies ... were aware of open source data about planned events on January 6, and seven were aware of potential violence planned for that day," the GAO report noted.

The big picture: The seven agencies that identified potential violence outlined a list of "38 election-related threat products," 26 of which were events planned to take place on Jan. 6, per the report.

  • Five agencies identified individuals or groups that planned to attend some of these events armed, while three agencies found information indicating that individuals might use weapons such as explosives.
  • Two of the agencies "identified the Capitol or Congress as targets of violent attacks based on election results," the report added.
  • As part of its process, GAO also interviewed officials from tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter "about the extent to which they shared information with agencies."

Go deeper: In photos: An hour-by-hour record of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot

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