Ex-Capitol Police Chief Faults Intelligence Officials and Military in Jan. 6 Attack
WASHINGTON — In a new book, the former chief of the Capitol Police levels blistering criticism at federal intelligence officials who failed to raise alarms before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and a military bureaucracy that waited hours to respond once the siege was underway.
Steven A. Sund, who was the Capitol Police chief during the 2021 riot, writes in his book, “Courage Under Fire,” that intelligence in the possession of the F.B.I., the Homeland Security Department and the Defense Department should have had those agencies “seeing red,” but they instead failed to warn the Capitol Police.
Adding to Mr. Sund’s frustration, he says, he was met with a series of delays as he pleaded with the military to deploy the National Guard to the Capitol.
“I respect the military. I come from a military family,” Mr. Sund said in an interview about his book. “The people in the field, those that are willing to the tell the truth, I highly respect. The people that decided not to send help to my men and women when we needed that support badly — I can’t even understand why they didn’t send help.”
Mr. Sund’s book, released on Tuesday, nearly two years after the bloody assault on the Capitol, contains a lengthy minute-by-minute recounting of the chaos that day. He spreads around blame for the attack.
Understand the Events on Jan. 6
- Timeline: On Jan. 6, 2021, 64 days after Election Day 2020, a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump raided the Capitol. Here is a close look at how the attack unfolded.
- A Day of Rage: Using thousands of videos and police radio communications, a Times investigation reconstructed in detail what happened — and why.
- Lost Lives: A bipartisan Senate report found that at least seven people died in connection with the attack.
- Jan. 6 Attendees: To many of those who attended the Trump rally but never breached the Capitol, that date wasn’t a dark day for the nation. It was a new start.
He says in the book that former President Donald J. Trump behaved irresponsibly when he fired up a crowd, directed it to the Capitol and watched the violence for hours without trying to intervene. Mr. Sund also faults security on Capitol Hill for becoming politicized.
(All three top Capitol security officials resigned under pressure after the breach of the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for Mr. Sund’s resignation during a news conference after the attack.)
Mr. Sund says he blames some top officials in the Capitol Police force who worked with him for some of the security failures, but he also takes responsibility.
He says that in retrospect he should have pushed harder, days before the assault, to persuade the National Guard to deploy to the Capitol, even though he believes much of the most damning intelligence never made its way to his desk. He also says he wishes he had been more involved in communicating with his officers during the attack.
“I should have known there would be a breakdown in communications,” he said in the interview. “The officers were calling out for help, and there was no one there to help them.”
But Mr. Sund saves his most intense criticism for people he once viewed as his law enforcement partners.
He accuses the Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community of “watering down” their reports about the potential for violence on Jan. 6. “There were people clearly calling for storming the Capitol,” Mr. Sund said. “D.H.S. didn’t put out a bulletin. D.H.S. didn’t even put out a warning.”
And he says the Pentagon was more concerned about “optics” than quickly deploying the National Guard during the attack.
“I got on a call with the Pentagon and pleaded for the National Guard,” he said. “There was delay after delay after delay.”
“I now believe they knew it was coming,” Mr. Sund said, adding that the military brass put “restrictions on the very assistance that was needed.”
Mr. Sund’s account is consistent with the testimony of Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, who was the commander of the District of Columbia National Guard and said the response was delayed because of concerns from higher-ups over “the optics” of the Army’s involvement.
The inaction, General Walker told the House committee investigating the attack, was because “somebody or somebodies were willfully, deliberately delaying making the decision.”
The panel examined the issue of the Guard delay and concluded that some at the Pentagon had “genuine concerns” that “President Trump might give an illegal order to use the military in support of his efforts to overturn the election” and that those concerns contributed to a reluctance to deploy troops.
Other security officials have taken issue with some of Mr. Sund’s accounts.
Julie Farnam, the assistant director of the Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division of the Capitol Police, said on Twitter that some of Mr. Sund’s statements about his interactions with department intelligence officials were false or misleading.
She wrote that she blamed Mr. Sund for not making better use of the intelligence that officials had shared with him that indicated Congress could be targeted by armed protesters.
The violence of Jan. 6 “was not an intelligence failure,” she wrote in a public Twitter message to Mr. Sund. “There was ample intelligence provided beforehand necessary to prepare appropriately. You did not.”