As bipartisan calls increase for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the events culminating in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, one question looms large: ‘What could have been done differently?’
Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI and NBC News national security analyst, believes that an independent commission would be effective but fears that it might uncover some very troubling information.
“My gut tells me we’re going to find some horrific layers of responsibility and direction,” Figliuzzi said on the most recent episode of the Miranda Warnings podcast. “When there are reports that members of Congress may have given tours of the Capitol in the days before the insurrection, and senators and Trump officials were discussing with activists what was going to happen, it’s likely you’re going to find prior knowledge, coordination and planning.”
Figliuzzi goes on to say that he doesn’t believe it was mere happenstance that Capitol Police were unequipped to deal with the violent mob.
“It was no mistake they were in their daily uniforms, with no tactical team or National Guard troops staged and ready,” Figliuzzi said. “I think this was orchestrated and I think we’re going to find out some of the last-minute staffing changes made by President Trump were a part of it.”
On the topic of how the insurrection could have been prevented, Figliuzzi renewed his call to make domestic terrorism a federal crime. That would allow the FBI to take stronger counterterrorism measures and to ask judges to impose more serious penalties for weightier charges.
“All I’m suggesting is when somebody meets the definition of domestic terrorism, let’s have a law that we can charge them with that is serious,” Figliuzzi said.
He acknowledges that such an idea makes civil libertarians uncomfortable because of concerns about spying on American citizens. But he says such fears shouldn’t deter law enforcement from charging domestic terrorists with a very serious crime.
“When someone tries to rob a bank, we don’t arrest them for trespassing the bank. We arrest them for robbing a bank, a much more serious crime,” Figliuzzi said. “When someone tries to steal our democracy, we arrest them for trespass and theft of Nancy Pelosi’s podium. We need a domestic terrorism law that puts people away for 20 years to life.”
He goes on to discuss former FBI Director James Comey’s missteps during the investigation of Hilary Clinton and how his actions led to the politicization of the FBI and gave millions of Americans a reason to mistrust the agency.
“He politicized the FBI with about half its population,” Figliuzzi said. “Which is the cardinal sin. The FBI has got to remain apolitical and neutral.”
He criticized the former FBI director for forgetting his responsibility to his superiors and the institution.
“We’re all accountable to somebody,” Figliuzzi said. “Not only should Comey have protected the bureau but he forgot he was accountable to the attorney general of the United States, his boss.”
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