Kabul on the Potomac

Confusion, finger-pointing reign in wake of Capitol violence, deaths

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A terrorist assault in the capital, collusion between security forces and attackers, intelligence gaps, bickering between police and military commanders: Washington looks today like Kabul on the Potomac, a capital mired in rivalries and unable to defend itself from thousands of alienated, enraged citizens. 

“The current feeling is tense, like when we were working to prevent an anticipated follow-on attack” in September 2001, says Carrie Cordero, who served as Justice Department liaison to the FBI's Strategic Information Operations Center in the days and weeks after Al Qaeda militants crashed hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and tried to pilot another into the Capitol 20 years ago. What those terrorist failed at, the pro-Trump mobs nearly accomplished on January 6. 

“Yet,” Cordero tweeted on Saturday, we are “not getting the sense DOJ/DHS leadership have interest or capability to drive [a] needed all-hands-on-deck effort” to quell another assault.

Extremist social media platforms are vibrating with plans for another assault on Washington to disrupt the inauguration of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris. What will authorities do—set up checkpoints on the major roads leading into D.C.?  The Kabulization of the capital would be complete.

As with so many Afghan terror attacks, every news cycle brings word of collusion between security forces and the infiltrators. Several off-duty police are being investigated for joining the extremist mobs who rushed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Today it was two Seattle cops who apparently flew across the country to join in the anti-government melée.

“Police departments across the country have suspended officers or referred them to internal reviews for attending the events,” the New York Times reported, citing ongoing investigations in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington State. Surely more will be turned up. The New York City Fire Department is also investigating reports of active or retired members showing up in D.C. for the virtual burning of the Capitol.

All this follows viral video of Capitol Police folding like Wonder Bread in the face of the surging raiders, a number of whom carried signs, banners and flags touting white power, the Confederacy, even Nazi genocide. 

The FBI is reportedly investigating whether the invasion was “an inside job,” in which “police and staff members at the Capitol building “aided” Trump supporters who stormed the grounds, according to the celebrity news site TMZ, which often breaks police-oriented stories.

The bureau “is puzzled by the ease with which the mob found its way to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office,” TMZ reported, because her office is not easily accessible. They stole a laptop. Influential South Carolina Democrat James Clyburn, said the militants bypassed his official first floor office and found their way to his unmarked, third floor hideaway, where they broke in and stole an iPad. One of the viral videos showed a Capitol cop blandly telling  a reporter “nobody can come in” even as a river of Trump militants flowed past him and other cops into the Rotunda. 

Collusion between the cops and white power militants would not be an anomaly. Last September a congressional committee surfaced a formerly classified 2006 FBI report on “White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement.”

The “infiltration or recruitment” of police by white power militants, it said, “can lead to investigative breaches and can jeopardize the safety of law enforcement sources and personnel.”

The FBI’s investigation is focused on Capitol police, but will also look at other Hill staffers, including “engineers, plumbers and janitors,” according to TMZ.

In the wake of the disaster, which has now resulted in five deaths, including one Capitol Police officer, finger-pointing broke out between local and federal law enforcement agencies and the Pentagon over who was responsible for the security lapses.

A security source told SpyTalk that the D.C. police intelligence was told by higher-ups to stop tracking extremist social media during the weeks before the extremist invasion “because it was connected to the president,” but the allegation could not be confirmed. The intelligence unit, in concert with the local Joint Terrorism Task Force, “absolutely” monitors extremist media, a top former D.C. police official told SpyTalk, but the “intelligence failure was obvious.” In any event, the MPD cannot intervene on congressional grounds, he and others said, unless invited by its police force—and the Capitol cops considered the threat “low” even as extremist media was on fire for weeks about protesting the election in Washington on January 6.

The  Pentagon released a timeline saying Capitol Police twice declined its help in the days leading up to January 6. “But it also shows that when the city officials and the Capitol Police requested additional National Guard troops after rioters breached the Capitol, it took four hours for those troops to arrive,” NBC News reported.

Likewise, President Trump denied responsibility for inciting the attack, and his allies sought to blame others—antifa, Black Lives Matter, and so forth, no matter that there was no proof of the latter and plenty of evidence for the former.

All in all, the aftermath of the tragedy resembled no less than the finger-pointing following a terrorist attack in Kabul, in which Afghan security ministries and even rival rebels commonly blame each other for bloody attacks that often involve collusion between government troops and insurgent sappers. 

After a devastating attack in November, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said authorities would "take revenge for this senseless attack,” which he blamed on the Taliban. The Taliban denied responsibility and blamed it on the Islamic State group, which eventually claimed credit for the deadly deed. On Capitol Hill, many Republicans have distanced themselves from their prior rhetoric claiming the election was “fixed”—the cry that animated the January 6 attacks—but not all.

Trump deflected blame and called the rioters “special,” and that he “love[d]” them, leaving it to FBI Director Chris Wray and others to express desires for revenge.

“Make no mistake: With our partners, we will hold accountable those who participated in yesterday’s siege of the Capitol,” Wray said.

The hunt goes on. And it may lead right back to insiders.

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