“We’re so far down the chain of people who wouldn’t normally be elevated to these positions, it brings greater questions about whether they’re being competently led at such a serious security situation,” said Carrie Cordero, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who has carefully tracked the years of Trump administration personnel vacancies. “As a former counterterrorism person, I worked on al-Qaeda in the early 2000s, and this security situation feels as tense to me as it did during certain periods then when the U.S. government was mobilizing to prevent an event. It’s unnerving.”
Already, empty seats and paralysis at the DHS intelligence unit have been cited as a reason for the government’s lack of preparedness for last week’s rally. As ABC News reported, “Had the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis been operating at full capacity over the previous months, the officials said, U.S. Capitol Police would have had a clearer picture of the ‘specific and credible’ threats of violence posed by groups planning to attend Wednesday’s rally.” The intelligence unit is just one of many agency components — including four of the nation’s seven largest federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the Capitol Police itself, whose chief resigned following the department’s abysmal failure last Wednesday — that have been without a leader for months. DHS’s intelligence leadership ranks are so empty that it’s currently being led by the principal deputy general counsel.