In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, amid discussion of an “intelligence failure,” the United States government reformed the structure of the federal government, formed a new department dedicated to homeland security, changed the architecture of the intelligence community, and created a director of national intelligence. In the wake of the storming of the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, there is yet again discussion of “intelligence failures.” The January 6, 2021, surprise storming of the Capitol was an intelligence failure that echoed previous US intelligence failures at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and on September 11, 2001. The failure to implement adequate security precautions in Washington revealed critical gaps on the domestic side of the post 9/11 intelligence architecture.
The critical gaps on the domestic side of the post-9/11 intelligence architecture call for reforms in how domestic counterterrorism intelligence is organized and led. Although January 6 was not a “complete intelligence failure” as some have described, it is clear that it was a multi-point failure in the current collection, analysis, and warning system—specifically geared toward domestic violent extremists. There are calls to reform the intelligence community, both to prevent a repeat of this type of event and, more broadly, to combat “domestic terrorism,” domestic violent extremism (DVE), or “racial or ethnically motivated violence” (REMV). Changes must be made to the current US intelligence architecture to face this new and changing threat environment in a way that maximizes intelligence success against the domestic violent-extremist threat and prevents future surprise attacks in the homeland.
The Atlantic Council report, “Domestic Violent Extremism and the Intelligence Challenge,” by Mitchell D. Silber presents recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the post-9/11 intelligence architecture against the domestic violent-extremist threat, and reform the intelligence architecture, including a more robust collection of social media content, and the creation of a Domestic Violent Extremism Unit inside the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which would report to the Director of National Intelligence.