Former DHS Officials: Capitol Breach Showed Inexperience at Agency Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
By Solange Reyner | Monday, 18 January 2021 02:33 PM
The breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 proved the inexperience of the Department of Homeland Security staff, former DHS officials from the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations tell NBC News.
Five people died, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sidnick, who was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, when protestors stormed the Capitol as Congress was working to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
U.S. Capitol Police were overrun by rioters and officers who spoke with the Associated Press said they were given next to no warning from leadership on the morning of the incident about what would become a growing force of thousands of rioters, many better armed than the officers themselves.
And once the riot began, they weren’t given instructions by the department’s leaders on how to stop the mob or rescue lawmakers who had barricaded themselves inside. There were only enough officers on duty for a routine day.
DHS never deployed its agents to help and failed to share intelligence with state and local partners or the Capitol Police before Jan. 6 that would have indicated that the demonstrations could turn into a riot. DHS also failed to designate the date as a National Special Security Event, an event of national or international significance deemed by the department to be a potential target for terrorism or other criminal activity
"They tend to be younger, with not as much experience. They don't have the incidents under their belts to know the proper protocols. So many protocols were not followed,” Elizabeth Neumann, who was deputy chief of staff at DHS until April, told NBC News.
"For (White House adviser Stephen) Miller to get his policies through, he put people in positions who had no qualifications whatsoever. While Stephen was solely focused on immigration, the department does other things. And the more critical parts of the department were impeded," she added.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson echoed Neumann’s criticism of the department focusing more on fighting immigration rather than extremists.
"DHS for the last four years has been used to hammer the president's aggressive border security, anti-immigration agenda, and not much else has been a priority for the agency," said Johnson, who served during the Obama administration.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.