Law enforcement and federal authorities in the Washington area are stepping up security efforts in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that the department is operating at a “heightened level of vigilance, because we are at a heightened level of threat” in general, but he added that DHS is not aware of any credible threats specifically related to the anniversary or January 6.
“The threat of domestic violent extremists is a very grave one,” he told reporters.
US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger insisted on Tuesday that the department would be capable of fending off another mob-like attack a year after rioters had crashed through doors and windows, attacked police and threatened lawmakers.
The police department is tracking several events and is most closely monitoring an event at the DC jail, though he said there was no specific or credible threat.
Manger said the department is focused on the most important issues first, such as intelligence dissemination, operational planning and civil disturbance unit preparedness.
DHS is working across the department to ramp up, where appropriate, its operational posture, including deploying more people, running a 24/7 intelligence watch capability and coordinating with fusion centers across the country to share information, according to a federal law enforcement official.
The US Secret Service and Federal Protective Service, two law enforcement agencies within DHS, also have deployment plans if needed, the official said.
DHS is coordinating with the FBI, the Metropolitan Police Department, US Park Police and Capitol Police to ensure that adequate personnel and physical security measures are in place, the official said, adding that they are tracking intelligence indicators to see if they can identify groups of people who may be traveling to the region.
“Unlike before January 6, there is a well-coordinated and cohesive effort,” involving DHS, FBI, state and local law enforcement both in the national capital region and outside the area, the official said.
The stepped-up security comes as Washington braces for the anniversary of the insurrection. Last week, a DHS intelligence assessment warned that “threat actors” may take advantage of the anniversary “to promote or possibly commit violence.”
Lone offenders are the most likely threat to the anniversary, according to the intelligence assessment, which was shared with state and local authorities.
DHS intelligence chief John Cohen, who spoke alongside Mayorkas, said that over the course of several months, the department has observed a “continuing pattern” by foreign countries – including China, Iran and Russia – to exploit fractures in American society by introducing or amplifying online narratives that are intended to exacerbate tensions.
Mayorkas noted that DHS has increased and improved information sharing with local communities over the past year to help counter the threat from domestic terrorism, as well as added local grant funding and established a new, dedicated domestic terrorism branch.
Manger said the US Capitol Police department tracked roughly 9,600 threats in 2021. Threats could include phone calls, emails or social media posts and don’t necessarily rise to the level of crimes.
And of more than 100 recommendations issued by the Capitol Police inspector general following the January 6 attack, the department has completed roughly 34 changes and is working to complete 60 others.
“United States Capitol Police as an organization is stronger and better prepared to carry out its mission today than it was before January 6th of last year,” Manger said Tuesday. “We immediately began to work after the 6th to fix the failures that occurred.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misquoted Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in one of his comments. The secretary said: “The threat of domestic violent extremists is a very grave one.”