WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Capitol complex is much safer than it was after the January 6 riot, but more security improvements are needed to protect members of Congress from the threats to their homes and workplaces, Capitol Hill security officials told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee chaired by Democratic Representative for the Niles area, Tim Ryan on Tuesday.
“Because today’s threat landscape is constantly changing, the security of the Capitol, its members, staff and visitors is a never-ending journey, not a destination,” said Staff Sgt. William J. Walker arms to the appropriations of the legislative branch of the House. Subcommittee.
Walker said his office hired security experts from the U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community to better protect the security of members of Congress on the U.S. Capitol, in their residences, when trips and events in their district.
Walker told Ryan members of the House of Representatives received nearly 9,000 threats last year, almost double the usual annual amount. These threats range from threatening comments to irresponsible comments on social media. Capitol Police investigated each threat to determine its level of severity, whether the person who made it could carry out the threat and whether prosecution was warranted, Walker said.
After January 6, all areas of the Capitol complex occupied by members were given access to “duress alarms” to summon officers. Walker also requested resources to provide “a standard security package” for the residences of members of Congress in their districts in Washington, DC, which would include indoor and outdoor cameras and video doorbells.
Ryan expressed appreciation for Walker’s efforts to secure the homes of members of Congress, adding that campaign finance laws provided for “a certain allowance” for campaign money to be used for home security, “But I don’t think people sending us $ 10 or $ 15 or $ 20 for re-election would really want us to use that money for a home security system.
“These threats are due to our official capacity, the official functions that we perform,” Ryan said.
Walker said he also wanted to establish a Capitol Hill access verification entry system program with a “strict identification verification process”, electronics and software to ensure that members of Congress and the Capitol police know who enters the Capitol complex and how long they stay there.
He also wishes to establish Capitol Security Officers who would serve in addition to the Capitol Police, just as the US Marshals Service has Court Security Officers who provide security in federal courts across the United States. Their use would come “after a thorough examination of all positions in the Capitol complex, to adequately determine which tasks and functions are” security “and which are” police “stations, Walker said.
“The addition of Capitol Hill security officers will serve as a force multiplier allowing Capitol Hill police officers to train, focus on vital police and investigative work, such as intelligence, threats and law enforcement. protecting dignitaries, and allowing officers to take their accumulated leave, “Walker continued,
United States Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said his department has made hundreds of improvements since the Capitol breach, including improvements in the way it collects, analyzes and shares intelligence , improvements to the equipment, personnel and training of its Civilian Disruption Unit, and the development of a “Critical Incident Response Plan” that will facilitate its ability to enlist the assistance of the partner organizations when needed.
“If January 6 taught us anything, it’s that preparation matters,” Manger said. “I have no doubts that the United States Capitol Police today is a stronger and better prepared law enforcement agency. However, we cannot afford to be complacent.
Capitol architect J. Brett Blanton told the subcommittee that he could not discuss all the improvements made to the complex after the Jan.6 attack for fear of security breaches, but that he would do it in private.
“We’re safer today than we were on January 6, but there is more to do,” said Blanton. “Significant investments are required to meet our physical security needs in a manner that meets the requirements associated with historic preservation. “
Ryan said Congress must avoid “falling into the trap of preparing for the last war” as it improves security.
“We have to plan thoughtfully to make sure the next one never comes,” he continued. “Ignoring the mistakes of the past or refusing to learn from them and grow from them will only continue to leave the Capitol campus vulnerable to unknown and unexpected threats. There is still a lot of important work to shed light on what happened that day.
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