Watchdog: Threats against Congress have doubled in 2021 as lawmakers grapple with how to improve security
WASHINGTON – Threats against members of Congress have more than doubled so far in 2021, compared to 2020, according to a watchdog report Friday about U.S. Capitol Police.
The report comes as Congress grapples with how to bolster security after the Jan. 6 riot that left five dead and 140 police officers injured. The House Administration Committee scheduled a hearing Monday about threat assessment and counter-surveillance before and during the attack.
The report from Michael Bolton, the inspector general for the police, said the department made significant progress in counter-surveillance and threat assessments. But threats continue to climb.
“Provided the unique threat environment we currently live in, the Department is confident the number of cases will continue to increase,” said a Capitol Police statement responding to the report.
FILE – In this March 20, 2021, file photo the U.S. Capitol dome stands past partially-removed razor wire hanging from a security fence on Capitol Hill in Washington. Authorities suggested for weeks in court hearings and papers that members of the Oath Keepers militia group planned their attack on the Capitol in advance in an effort to block the peaceful transition of power. But prosecutors have since said it’s not clear whether the group was targeting the Capitol before Jan. 6, giving defense attorneys an opening to try to sow doubt in the government’s case. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) ORG XMIT: WX106 (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)
At the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., retired Lt. General Russel Honore led a task force that recommended more police, a permanent assignment of National Guard and more fencing around the building. He warned the Capitol remains at risk of another attack.
The rising number of threats have been a concern for months. Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told lawmakers in March that threats soared 93% during the first two months of the year. Threats rose 118% from 2017 to 2020, she said.
But Congress must decide how much to spend on security and several recommendations require legislation, such as restructuring the department and boosting staffing to assess threats.
Bolton’s report compared the Capitol Police to the Secret Service. Last year, the Secret Service had 100 agents and analysts for threat assessments working on about 8,000 cases. Capitol Police had 30 agents and analysts working on about 9,000 cases.
“However, in order to fully implement this recommendation, the Department would require additional resources for new employees, training, and vehicles as well as approval from Congressional stakeholders,” the Capitol Police statement said.
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