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Siege of the U.S. Capitol "was a total failure of security," former CIA leader says

Former CIA leader on failed police response
Former CIA leader on failed police response to Capitol assault 06:25

The political violence at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday after law enforcement officers were overrun by a mob of Trump supporters "was a total failure of security," said Michael Morell, CBS News senior security contributor and former CIA acting director. 

Rioters were able to push past Capitol Police, shattering windows and swarming through the House and Senate chambers. Members of Congress who had convened to count the Electoral College votes had to abruptly suspend their joint session and evacuate to secure locations.

Morell said U.S. Capitol Police and other agencies failed to anticipate and prepare for what was coming.  President Trump had called for his supporters to come to Washington and inflamed their outrage with his baseless claims that the election was "stolen." He addressed the crowd Wednesday morning and encouraged them to march to Capitol Hill.

"They should have known that those protesters would show at the Capitol and they should've been prepared for that with hundreds of officers," Morell told CBSN on Thursday. "There needs to be a major investigation of this. People need to be held accountable both at the senior levels, for not being prepared, and at the working levels, for not doing their job."

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday also criticized the response of the Capitol Police. 

"Obviously it was a failure or you would not have had police lines breached and people entering the building by breaking windows," Bowser said.

One woman was shot and killed by a plainclothes Capitol Police officer after breaching security and attempting to enter the House chamber, according to acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee. Three others died as a result of medical emergencies during the unrest. 

It took hours for the National Guard to be deployed to the scene. The city declared a 6 p.m. curfew and law enforcement officers finally succeeded in clearing the building, announcing Wednesday night that the Capitol had been secured.

As videos and images emerged of the protest-turned-riot, more questions arose about how the situation was handled by law enforcement. Morell joined other observers in noting how it contrasted with the crackdown on racial injustice protests in Washington and other cities around the country over the summer.

"There is no doubt in my mind that if those were Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday breaking into the Capitol Building, there would be dozens and dozens of people dead today," Morell said."We should be calling what happened yesterday domestic terrorism."

Police officials said Thursday that 68 people have been arrested in connection with the unrest at the Capitol, most as a result of breaking curfew. The FBI also posted on Twitter that it was looking for help identifying people involved in the riots. 

While no members of Congress appear to have been hurt Wednesday, some were forced to take cover in secure rooms while rioters entered the House and Senate chambers and rummaged through their offices. U.S. Capitol Police officers in the House chamber stood behind barricades, pointing their guns at the door. 

U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

One man in the crowd took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lectern and carried it through the building's Rotunda as he smiled and waved to photographers. 

As U.S. allies shook their heads in dismay at the assault on the heart of U.S. democracy, U.S. adversaries were quick to pour scorn on the country for presuming to lecture others about democratic ideals.

Adversaries like Russia, China and others see Wednesday's events "as a significant opportunity" and will try to use this to "reduce our influence," Morell told CBS News.

"They will show this to their own people and they will say, 'This is actually what democracy brings, so you should actually be happy that we don't live in a democracy,'" he said.

Thursday morning, crews began installing a 7-foot-high security fence around the Capitol, which will stay in place for at least 30 days.

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