Pentagon slow to move on Capitol attack

Mark HosenballAAP
Police were told on January 6 the National Guard could only deploy as a last resort.
Camera IconPolice were told on January 6 the National Guard could only deploy as a last resort.

Pentagon officials took more than three hours to approve a request by US Capitol Police for National Guard backup as rioters attacked on January 6, a military commander has told a Senate hearing.

District of Columbia National Guard commander Major General William Walker told senators on Wednesday an emotional Capitol Police chief Brian Sund contacted him at 1.49 pm on January 6 to request urgent backup as violent demonstrators began attacking the Capitol building.

Sund resigned after the riot.

Walker told a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees the day before, he requested and received Pentagon permission to have on standby a 40-member "quick reaction force" and 155 other DC guard members.

But Walker said on January 5, he also received a written order from then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy that he could only deploy the reaction force as a last resort and with a specific operational plan.

Walker said defence officials did not give him final permission to deploy Guard forces until 3 hours and 19 minutes after he received the Capitol Police chief's urgent request.

Officials of the Homeland Security Department and the FBI told senators months before the January 6 riots, both agencies circulated intelligence reports on domestic extremist groups.

FBI counter-terrorism chief Jill Sanborn said her office issued a warning last August that "domestic violent extremist responses to the election outcome might not occur until after the election and could be based on potential or anticipated policy changes."

But Sanborn acknowledged that a January 5 FBI Norfolk office bulletin warning of possible violence the next day was based on an "anonymous posting" on an internet message board.

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