As thousands of Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on 6 January they left behind a trail of destruction in their wake, with broken furniture, shattered windows and battered doors.
The violence in the building that contains the Senate and the House of Representatives, that left five people dead and dozens arrested, may have far-reaching implications for national security as well.
Stolen and damaged items have since been reported by elected officials' offices, with the actions by the ‘insurrectionists’ potentially posing serious harm to the United States.
US Attorney Michael Sherwin said during a news briefing on Thursday that “a large amount of pilfering at the Capitol” had occurred, and materials were stolen. Ahead of a full accounting, that is yet to be carried out, he said:
“We have to identify what was done, mitigate that, and it could have potential national security equities,” said Sherwin.
Earlier, CBS News reported that a laptop possibly containing sensitive national security information was among the objects stolen as rioters ransacked the offices of lawmakers, rifled through computer files and emails, and pilfered personal electronics and documents.
BREAKING: A full-scale manhunt is underway for members of the mob that attacked the Capitol.— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) January 7, 2021
On top of the damage done inside, sources tell CBS News that a laptop possibly containing sensitive national security information was stolen.@NorahODonnell reports from the Capitol pic.twitter.com/fcHmsWfD0m
Protesters who breached the Capitol building stormed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chambers, with a man representing himself as Blaze reporter Elijah Schaffer sharing a photo of one of her laptops in a tweet.
He added that “emails are still on the screen along side federal alert warning members of the current revolution”.
BREAKING: revolution in process as Trump supporters break into the Capitol building, attacking police, breaking windows, and knocking down doors— ELIJAH SCHAFFER (@ElijahSchaffer) January 6, 2021
Full anarchy at this “mostly peaceful” demonstration DC
The people have pushed through & are storming to main chambers pic.twitter.com/NW6VDDNBQw
The laptop purportedly belongs to Pelosi’s Press Advisor Mia Ehrenberg.
Also reportedly breached during the riots was the office of member of Congress Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who tweeted a video of what he called the “trail of destruction and looting”. He claimed that rioters had stolen a laptop left on his desk.
The trail of destruction and looting. What happened today was an assault by the domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol, but it was also an assault on our constitution.— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) January 7, 2021
[sound on] pic.twitter.com/BrELF7cMz1
‘Sensitive Information’ at Risk
According to security and espionage experts cited by BuzzFeed News, highly sensitive information could have been taken in the chaos.
During the amount of time the mob was in control of the Capitol building, material that adversaries could potentially exploit against US interests might have been gleaned, they claim, while conceding that it is unlikely any foreign spies infiltrated Congress.
A former high-ranking FBI official with experience in the cyber unit was cited by BuzzFeed as explaining that “a lot of planning goes into an installation of a bug even though it may only take seconds to install”.
“I think it’s unlikely just based on my opinion the breach wasn’t premeditated to the point where someone could have done proper advanced planning for an install, but something crude could have been left behind,” said the former official.
In response to the current reports, the House of Representatives’ chief administrative officer said in a statement that it “took several actions” during the riot to protect Congress’s digital infrastructure, including “issuing commands to lock computers and laptops and shutting down wired network access.”
NEW: House CAO just sent members' offices this notice about cyber risks from the Capitol attack.— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) January 7, 2021
CAO “took several actions” to protect the House’s digital infrastructure, she wrote, including "issuing commands to lock computers and laptops and shutting down wired network access" pic.twitter.com/EKWZRNG2Ns
“At this time, there have been no indications that the House network was compromised,” says the statement.
Chaos and Violence
On Wednesday, supporters of the incumbent president stormed into the US Capitol after a rally where Donald Trump made a speech claiming the election was stolen from him.
At least five people died in the riot, including a female veteran who was shot dead inside the Capitol by a police officer. The Capitol building suffered serious damage as a result of the chaos.
Trump repeatedly urged the protesters to go home, calling on them to remain peaceful and respect law and order.
Despite the ‘insurrection’ forcing the joint session of Congress to go into recess, after order was restored, the procedure officially certified Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's victory, rejecting objections to the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Donald Trump for the first time on Thursday vowed an orderly transition to Joe Biden and acknowledged his presidency was ending in a video he released on Twitter.
January 8, 2021