The Jan. 6 Capitol riot led lawmakers and members of the corporate media to challenge the way law enforcement agencies address threats posed by fringe ideological groups. A form of a “reset,” some argue, is necessary to quell future insurrections.
After President Joe Biden’s election, some Democratic lawmakers advocated for projects akin to truth and reconciliation commissions. Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez notably headed the debate with a tweet asking whether groups were keeping records of Trump administration alumni and allies. Yet in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots, lawmakers and media figures are pushing to address “white terror.”
The Daily Beast’s Jeff Stein likened the Capitol insurrection to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. But Stein said the rioters, in a sense, were almost more successful than the al-Qaeda terrorists. The rioters “stormed and trashed the citadel of American democracy, nearly executing what al-Qaeda had failed to do, destroy the U.S. Capitol,” Stein wrote.
Stein recalled the interagency information sharing conundrum leading up to the 9/11 attacks, which resulted in commissions designed to root out and rectify intelligence failings.
“One response to the 9/11 tragedy may well get renewed attention after the Capitol assault—especially if armed white nationalists are successful in carrying out more attacks in the coming days and weeks: The call for a secret police.”
Intelligence and think tank experts like the Rand Corporation posed the idea in the aftermath of Sept. 11 of “an autonomous service within an existing agency.” But agency officials at the time rejected the notion, Stein wrote. Stein also pointed to a failure of local law enforcement and the bureau to “recognize crazy-talking, highly armed white men as a systematic, potential terrorism threat.”
NBC News National Security Analyst Jeremy Bash told MSNBC host Joe Scarborough he believes combating domestic terror groups will prompt a reinvention in the intelligence community. Bash argued that right now, after-the-fact arrests are not enough, and a shift towards surveillance of potential threats could put enforcement agencies ahead of the curve.
“We’re going to have to reset our entire intelligence approach to these White Supremacist militias, these dangerous ultra-nationalists organizations,” Bash said. “I think we’re going to have to look at greater surveillance of them, the FBI is going to have to run confidential sources.”
NBC’s Jeremy Bash on the Capitol Hill rioters: “We’re going to have to reset our entire intelligence approach … We’re going to have to look at greater surveillance of them, the FBI is going to have to run confidential sources” pic.twitter.com/L2xgeUPhXE
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 18, 2021
Democratic lawmakers also spoke up after the riot and voiced anger toward Republican counterparts. Some even expressed an unwillingness to work with their colleagues in the future. Democratic Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, who runs the natural resources subcommittee, told The New York Times he’s “contemplating not allowing any Republican bills to go to the floor if you are one of the people who voted to not recognize the votes of Arizona.” Gallego noted he doesn’t believe Republicans are interested in unifying.
“They don’t want unity. They want absolution,” Gallego said. “They want us to forgive them for their crimes and cowardice that have occurred under Donald Trump. They would rather feed that monster than defend the Constitution of the United States and our democracy.”
Yet lawmakers had already introduced a bill to enhance intelligence sharing to snuff out right-wing “domestic terrorism” plots. Democratic Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider introduced the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2020 that “would enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent, report on, respond to, and investigate acts of domestic terrorism by authorizing offices dedicated to combating this threat; requiring these offices to regularly assess this threat.” (RELATED: We Had Five Reporters On The Ground For The Capitol Hill Riot. Here’s What Really Happened)
“It is not enough to just condemn hate, we need to equip law enforcement with the tools needed to identify threats and prevent violent acts of domestic terrorism,” Schneider said. “The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act improves coordination between our federal agencies and makes sure they are focused on the most serious domestic threats.”
Writing for The Atlantic, Columbia Law School professor Michel Paradis argued that the potential penalties levied toward proven perpetrators and violent Capitol rioters will be insufficient if not given a terrorism enhancement. Paradis noted that even those guilty of vandalism and unarmed clashes with police face sentences less severe than a mandatory minimum for someone who grew marijuana.
“The enhancement applies to anyone who commits any one of a list of more than 50 federal crimes with the intent “to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct,” Paradis wrote.
“Failing to apply it to those who stormed the Capitol in an effort to violently disrupt the peaceful transition of power simply because most are white and regard themselves as “patriots” would be deeply unjust,” Paradis continued.
Missives decrying white supremacy and its ties to the riots abound on corporate media editorial pages. Activist Barbara Smith, for example, wrote in a piece for the Boston Globe that the Capitol siege has led people to notice the difference between the treatment of the Black Lives Matter and the Capitol riots. She also claimed that those who voted for Trump — 74 million Americans — voted to uphold a system of white supremacy.
“For four years the head of government returned whiteness to its rightful place, staving off the frightening prospect of white people becoming a numerical minority,” Smith wrote. “Seventy-four million people, although most of them will not admit it, do not want to give that up.”