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Analysis: Capitol attack shatters sense of calm, raising fresh questions about security

April 3, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 25.9%. 2 min read.

The alert of another violent attack on the US Capitol grounds sent shockwaves through Washington, DC, Friday -- shattering the sense of relative calm at the start of the holiday weekend and reminding everyone that a nation just beginning to crawl out from under the pandemic's long shadow is also still under threat nearly three months after the January 6 insurrection.

Friday's attack made it plain that the Capitol and its occupants remain a vulnerable target, even as the memories of the political violence on January 6 were beginning to recede and Trump and his allies have attempted to whitewash the dangers of that day, with the former President going so far as to falsely suggest that the insurgents were "hugging and kissing" police officers and posed "zero threat. "

But it was painfully clear on Friday as Capitol Police Officer William "Billy" Evans, an 18-year-veteran of the force, lost his life in the attack, and another officer was injured, that members of Congress have not yet managed to find the balance between preserving the accessibility of the Capitol building and ensuring the safety of the men and women who protect it.

In the hyper-politicized environment surrounding the January 6 attacks and Trump's role in inciting his supporters to violence, the question of security at the Capitol has generated a heated debate in Congress in recent weeks, with many members from both parties demanding a clearer justification for the temporary fencing topped with razor wire, while some stalwart Trump allies on the Hill have attempted to minimize the dangers that police faced in the January riot.

After conducting a six-week review of security at the Capitol at the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Retired Lt. General Russel Honoré and other members of the task force he headed urged Congress to increase Capitol Police staffing, improve the force's intelligence-gathering capabilities, create mobile fencing and enhance protection of members of Congress, among other improvements.

The Capitol Police, the task force report concluded, is "not postured to track, assess, plan against, or respond to this plethora of threats due to significant capacity shortfalls, inadequate training, immature processes, and an operating culture that is not intelligence-driven. " They said the Capitol Police were "understaffed, insufficiently equipped and inadequately trained" to handle the mob that attacked the building on January 6.

He noted, for example, that after the January 6 attack "many people wanted to send all the National Guard home," but senior House leadership kept a smaller response force in place at their Capitol post, allowing them to respond quickly on Friday.

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