By now you've probably seen images and video of capitol police officers posing for selfies with the Red Hats who invaded the building and, in at least one case, video of officers intentionally allowing rioters through a barricade, but foreign officials with direct knowledge of Washington's defense see something more than that.
Foreign security officials including intelligence officials from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states say there's no conceivable way that what happened this week could have happened unless American officials allowed it to.
Insider spoke with three officials on Thursday morning: a French police official responsible for public security in a key section of central Paris, and two intelligence officials from NATO countries who directly work in counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations involving the US, terrorism, and Russia. [...]
The French police official said they believed that an investigation would find that someone interfered with the deployment of additional federal law-enforcement officials on the perimeter of the Capitol complex; the official has direct knowledge of the proper procedures for security of the facility.
"These are not subtle principles" for managing demonstrations, "and they transfer to every situation," the official said. "This is why we train alongside the US federal law enforcement to handle these very matters, and it's obvious that large parts of any successful plan were just ignored." [...]
The third official, who works in counterintelligence for a NATO member, agreed that the situation could only be seen as a coup attempt, no matter how poorly considered and likely to fail, and said its implications might be too huge to immediately fathom.
"Thank God it didn't work, because I can't imagine how hard it would be to sanction the US financial system," the official said. By sanctions, he means the imposition of the diplomatic, military, and trade blockages that democratic nations usually reserve for dictatorships.
At any other time this would feel like wild speculation to me, but I can't say it is.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that new limits were imposed on the National Guard just two days before the invasion of the capitol building.
In memos issued Monday and Tuesday in response to a request from the D.C. mayor, the Pentagon prohibited the District’s guardsmen from receiving ammunition or riot gear, interacting with protesters unless necessary for self-defense, sharing equipment with local law enforcement, or using Guard surveillance and air assets without the defense secretary’s explicit sign-off, according to officials familiar with the orders. The limits were established because the Guard hadn’t been asked to assist with crowd or riot control. [...]
Then the mission abruptly changed — and the Pentagon is now facing criticism from governors and local officials who say it moved too slowly to send National Guard troops to respond, a charge that its leaders denied Thursday.
In hindsight, I think we're fortunate or narrowly lucky that we did not see any members of Congress captured and possibly killed by the Red Hats. They came close, however, and security officers were forced to draw their guns at one point to prevent them from reaching members.
What happened this week may been a failure or error in judgment and nothing more, but I don't feel confident that it wasn't more than that.
For his part, Trump openly called on his supporters to storm the building. What we don't know is if security officials loyal to or appointed by Trump may have intentionally let their guard down.
The incoming administration should thoroughly investigate the matter and assign responsibility. If anyone did intentionally allow this to happen, they should be charged with any applicable law.