Department Of Defense Named Election Protests As A Threat Ahead Of Capitol Hill Riot


U.S. military intelligence anticipated conflict stemming from conspiracy theories about results of the general election weeks before the riot unfolded in the U.S. Capitol last week, according to a purportedly leaked internal intelligence assessment published by The Intercept Wednesday.

Key Facts

The report, labeled an “All Hazards Threat Assessment” from the Navy and dated December 21, 2020, states that the divisive nature of the presidential election has “contributed to an environment where civil disturbance activity is almost certain to continue to persist.”

“While the election is finished, a large segment of the population views the results as invalid or fraudulent,” the report reads. “Conspiracy theories, amplified by social media echo chambers, are likely to both increase the potential for civil disturbance activity and intensify the level of civil disturbance activity as well.”

The report predicted the unrest could play out as “large-scale protests that escalate to riots, looting, or criminal activity,” describing what would occur on Capitol Hill just weeks later, and also specified the Washington, D.C. area could be targeted as the heart of the federal government.

The assessment pointed out protests began as soon as the race was called: “It is very likely that these protests will appear again as results of the election are cemented and inauguration day approaches,” the report read.

The document also deemed QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory movement some Capitol rioters aligned with, as a potential terrorist threat.

The intelligence report appears to contradict the Defense Department’s claims that they “don’t do domestic [intelligence] collection,” and relied wholly on assessments of the Capitol’s riot situation from federal law enforcement and the Capitol Police to explain why they didn’t respond to the riots more quickly, The Intercept noted.

Forbes has reached out to the Department of Defense for comment.

Key Background

The Defense Department has faced blowback for not getting the National Guard to Capitol Hill Wednesday in time to keep the Capitol building from being breached during the riots. U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund (who later stepped down from his post) said his requests for help from the National Guard were delayed or denied six times during the riots, he told the Washington Post. On Thursday, the Defense Department issued a statement quoting Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman as saying the department depends on Capitol Police and federal law enforcement at the scene for intel. “Based on that assessment that they had, they believed they had sufficient personnel and did not make a request,” for assistance from the National Guard, Hoffman said, besides 340 National Guardsmen requested mainly for crowd control.

Further Reading

Defense Department Anticipated Election-Related Unrest Before Capitol Riot (The Intercept)

Report: FBI Office Warned Of ‘War’ At U.S. Capitol Despite Claim Attack Was Unknown (Forbes)

U.S. Military Leaders Slam Capitol Riots As ‘Sedition And Insurrection’ In Rare Statement (Forbes)