“Protecting and defending the Constitution,” the oath taken by our elected leaders, means securing the institutions where they gather to govern the United States of America.
On January 6th, that security was lacking.
Ten days ago, an angry mob attacked the U.S. Capitol – our nation’s iconic symbol of democracy, as well as Article One’s impressive home.
Since that disturbing day, sources on Capitol Hill have told me similar variations of “heads must roll,” “security plans need to be bolstered” and “stovepipes must come down.”
Lawmakers, staffers, support staff and journalists who cover Congress want answers, not just for intelligence failures, but also for assurances that it won’t happen again.
An outside, independent commission, tasked with investigating the law enforcement failures of January 6th, and subsequently providing recommendations to prevent future domestic attacks on the Capitol, is needed, a former head of the United States Capitol Police (USCP) tells Article One.
“The 9/11 commission may be one of the best examples of an independent assessment,” retired U.S. Capitol Police Chief and Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer says in an upcoming podcast episode of Article One with Molly Hooper.
He’s not alone in this thinking. A growing number of bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate have also called for some form of an outside inquiry but to date, Congress has not voted on the matter.
In her Friday statement announcing “an immediate review of the security of the U.S. Capitol Complex,” under the direction of Ret. Lt. General Russel Honore, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) confirmed “there is strong support for an outside commission to conduct an after action review.”
Honore’s review will delve into the “security infrastructure, interagency processes and procedures and command and control,” Pelosi stated.
But it is unclear if that type of review will be enough to satisfy the large number of members calling for an independent commission similar to the 9-11 Commission.
Gainer, who led the USCP as police chief from 2002-2006 and then served as Senate Sergeant at Arms (SAA) from 2007-2014, says that USCP, DC police, the Defense Department, the FBI and the Secret Service will all be “doing after action reports” to figure out “what do I have to worry about tomorrow that I didn’t do today?”
But, the former USCP Chief believes a broader inquiry is necessary in light of recent “cross talk that we’ve had already, about what intelligence was available and what people had … it gets a little bit multi-jurisdictional so, an independent commission with the power to do (investigate) and not be shy about pulling punches” will be required.
Congress created the bipartisan, independent “9-11 Commission” in the wake of the September 11, 2001 al Qaida terrorist attacks on New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania (the plane many believe was headed to the U.S. Capitol).
The commission was tasked with preparing “a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks” and it was mandated to “provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.”
Gainer took command of the USCP in 2002, a short time after the 9–11 attacks. During his four year tenure as USCP police chief, and subsequent eight years as Senate Sergeant at Arms, he implemented and oversaw many security enhancements on the capitol complex.
A comparable outside investigation into the January 6, 2021 breach of Capitol Hill would undoubtedly demand answers from Congress – an institution that prefers to oversee and investigate Article Two (executive branch) departments and agencies, as opposed to subjecting themselves to rigorous public self-examination.
In his wide-ranging interview with Article One, Gainer sheds light on the inner workings of the notoriously secretive USCP operations, which he acknowledges are “less open” than most other city police departments.
The former chief provides background on decision-making among the leaders atop Capitol Hill’s law enforcement operation, and shares his insights on the current morale among officers (it is low).
Gainer spent the majority of his law enforcement career working his way through the ranks in major city police departments including Chicago and Washington D.C. The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak’s Thursday evening column, spotlighting Gainer, provides colorful anecdotes of his work in other jurisdictions.
At the end of our conversation, Gainer directs a special message to Capitol Hill-based Article One listeners – “young and inexperienced or even old and experienced” – officers, staffers, and lawmakers who work in the Capitol or on campus at the Supreme Court and Library of Congress.
“PTSD and the feelings” that accompany it are real, and Capitol Hill workers “are going to need support for some time to come,” Gainer said, adding “my heart goes out to you and you’ve got to take care of each other.”
Gainer projects that for some time to come, a key question shall remain top of mind for the thousands who call the U.S. Capitol their “office:” how will Congress regroup and provide security to lawmakers, personnel, committee staffers, support staff, journalists and (eventually) tourists who populate the campus every day?
Make sure to subscribe to “Article One with Molly Hooper” wherever you listen to your podcasts so you don’t miss this interview with Terrance Gainer, as well as future episodes dedicated to the very important topic of protecting our precious Article One branch of government.