• PERSPECTIVE: Capitol siegeA Proposal for a Commission on the Capitol Siege

    On 6 January, the U.S. Capitol was assaulted and occupied for the first time since 1814. Five people were killed, including Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who was beaten to death while attempting to repel the siege. Herb Lin and Amy Zegart write that the insurrectionists were ultimately unable to block the Congressional certification of Joseph Biden as president-elect and Kamala Harris as vice president-elect. “Accountability, healing, and national reconciliation are vital to restoring American democracy in the days ahead,” they write. “It is critical for the nation to conduct a systematic, thorough and bipartisan examination of this event to understand how it happened and how to prevent similar violent attacks on democratic processes in the future.”

  • ExtremismCapitol Siege Raises Questions over Extent of White Supremacist Infiltration of U.S. Police

    By Vida Johnson

    The apparent participation of off-duty officers in the rally that morphed into a siege on the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6 has revived fears about white supremacists within police departments. Reports of officers involved in an attack in which the symbols and language of white supremacy were clearly on display are concerning. But so too, I believe, is a policing culture that may have contributed to the downplaying of the risk of attack before it began and the apparent sympathetic response to attackers displayed by some police officers – they too hint at a wider problem.

  • ARGUMENT: Impeachment & mad kingsNecessary and Insufficient: The Problems Impeachment Does Not Solve

    Congress could not ignore President Donald Trump’s relentless, persistent campaign of Big Lies about the 3 November election—a pattern of behavior that culminated in the president’s move last week to assemble a mob in Washington and loose it on the Capitol. Benjamin Wittes writes that impeachment was, therefore, necessary – but “Impeachment is an awkward remedy in a more practical sense” since “It does nothing to disable Trump in the last seven days of his presidency.” “Congress can remove a president using impeachment but, in the meantime, has to leave the mad king in possession of all of his powers.”

  • Democracy watchU.S. Capitol Police Overrun by Mob After Declining Help

    By Jeff Seldin

    Law enforcement officials in charge of protecting the U.S. Capitol repeatedly declined offers of additional assistance ahead of Wednesday’s protest-turned-riot that forced lawmakers to take shelter, delaying certification of the results of the country’s presidential election. The allegations, from defense and military officials, come a day after large crowds of extremists supporting President Donald Trump pushed past barricades and members of the Capitol Police to rampage through the building.

  • Democracy watchThe Uncomfortable Questions Facing Capitol Police over the Security Breach by MAGA Mob

    By Tom Nolan

    When die-hard Trump supporters are able to storm the U.S. Capitol and forcefully occupy offices in the House and the Senate, questions over security are going to be asked. Something clearly didn’t go to plan on Wednesday. The man in charge of policing that day, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, has since announced he is resigning. But even with him gone, what will remain are serious questions that will need to be answered about how an angry mob was able to circumvent security and enter the Capitol building.

  • PERSPECTIVE: Capitol security failureTragedy at the Capitol: Four Questions that Demand Answers

    How can the U.S. Capitol, surrounded by one of the largest concentrations of law enforcement and national security personnel in the world, be so quickly overrun by Trump insurrectionists hell-bent on “stopping the steal,” halting our cherished democratic processes, and potentially harming lawmakers? Mark Nevitt writes that “it was always drilled home from my time in the military the importance of unity of command and unity of effort…. But prior to the insurrection, Trump himself incited it, in tweets and in a speech that morning. Shockingly, the person at the very top of the chain of command was not interested in protecting the Capitol nor the lawmakers inside during a time of national crisis.”

  • Democracy watchOfficials Seek Answers to Why Security Failed at U.S. Capitol Wednesday

    Washington, D.C., officials have joined U.S. lawmakers in calling for an investigation of the police force that protects the Capitol, while offering praise for their actions, after Wednesday’s storming of the seat of the country’s legislative branch by a mob of pro-Trump protesters.

  • PERSPECTIVE: Plum IslandCongress’s Spending Bill Protects a Mysterious Island for Studying Diseases from the Auction Block

    For decades, Plum Island, off the northeast edge of Long Island, has been the subject of the kind of conspiracy theories the Internet loves. The truth is more prosaic: By order of Congress, the Plum Island Animal Disease Laboratory opened in 1956 to study how to combat dangerous foreign animal pathogens, such as foot-and-mouth disease. A dozen years ago, Congress approved a plan to move the animal research facility to Manhattan, Kansas. The move was to be followed by auctioning Plum Island to the highest bidder. A coalition consisting of environmental groups, Native American nations, local businesses, and other organizations was formed to block any such sale. James Bennet writes that “deep within the 5,000-plus pages of the spending bill awaiting President Trump’s signature… is a terse provision that saves Plum Island from the auction block.”

  • ThreatsRecent Congressional Testimony: Worldwide Threats to the Homeland

    By Stevie Kiesel

    Two weeks ago, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified about “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland” to the House Committee on Homeland Security. Wray acknowledges the “unique and unprecedented challenges” brought about by COVID-19, as well as important “aggressive and sophisticated threats on many fronts,” but in his opening statement he focuses on five main topics: cyber, China, lawful access, election security, and counterterrorism.

  • ARGUMENT: Ukrainegate 2.0Manafort’s Reward: Sen. Ron Johnson and the Ukraine Conspiracy Investigation: Part II

    After three years of insisting that unvetted information should never form the basis for an investigation into an active presidential candidate (did someone say “Steel Dossier”?), Republican members of the Senate would never attempt to do such a thing themselves, right? “Wrong,” Asha Rangappa and Ryan Goodman write in Just Security, adding that this is exactly what Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) is attempting to do in the home stretch of the 2020 election: “An attempt to accomplish through a congressional hearing what President Donald Trump was unable to achieve through his quid pro quo to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, namely, to put Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, under a cloud of suspicion before the country votes this November.” But Johnson’s investigation as a second purpose, too: “The goal isn’t just to smear Biden, but also to shift blame for 2016 election interference to Ukraine.”

  • SecretsLawmaker Questions Intelligence Community Cybersecurity

    Following damning CIA report on stolen hacking tools — “the largest data loss in CIA history” — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) asked Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe to explain what steps have been taken to improve the cybersecurity of some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, held by federal intelligence agencies.

  • COVID-19 & terterrorismLawmakers Press Administration on Counterterrorism Efforts Amid COVID-19

    Senators Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), both members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called on the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and Intelligence Community to answer questions about what these agencies are doing to address ongoing and emerging terrorist threats amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The senators note that there is evidence of both foreign and domestic potential terrorists trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Russia connectionSenate Intel Releases Report on Intel Community Assessment of Russian Interference

    On Tuesday, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a new report, the fourth and penultimate volume in the Committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation. The latest installment examines the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work behind the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) that determined Russia conducted an unprecedented, multi-faceted campaign to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “One of the ICA’s most important conclusions was that Russia’s aggressive interference efforts should be considered ‘the new normal,’” said Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), the committee’s chairman.

  • PerspectiveThe U.S. Needs to Know What Went Wrong

    When America has recovered from the coronavirus crisis and people are back to work, Congress should consider a 9/11-style independent commission to examine why the United States was so unprepared for the pandemic.

  • PrivacyLawmaker Presses Clearview AI on Foreign Sales of Facial Recognition

    Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts earlier this week raised new concerns about Clearview AI’s facial recognition app. Markey initially wrote to Clearview in January 2020 with concerns about how the company’s app might violate Americans’ civil liberties and privacy. Clearview is marketing its product to users in foreign countries with authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia. The company might also be collecting and processing images of children from social media sites.