- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2022

House Republicans want the inspector general for U.S. Capitol Police to expand a current probe into the agency’s alleged spying on Congress members to include potential misuse of other enhanced security measures adopted since the riot at the Capitol.

Three GOP lawmakers on Wednesday called on Inspector General Michael Bolton to also consider potential civil liberties violations in his investigation of the USCP.

They said the agency had become politicized after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and potentially biased against GOP members of Congress.

“Since January 6th, the Majority has politicized campus security, fomenting distrust among Republicans and raising doubts among members as to the unbiased, impartial security decisions being made around the Capitol complex,” the members wrote. “We are concerned that this erosion of trust in USCP leadership threatens the mission of USCP, the Capitol Police Board, and campus security overall.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Bryan Steil of Wisconsin and Barry Loudermilk of Georgia.

USCP has denied that it spies on members.

Mr. Bolton is scheduled to testify Thursday in front of the House Administration Committee, which oversees USCP.

Mr. Davis is the ranking member on the panel, which is chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who also sits on the select committee investigating the Capitol riot.

Ms. Lofgren did not respond to requests for comment.

The inspector general’s office agreed to open an investigation into the USCP after Republican lawmakers accused the agency of spying on them and their visitors.

Capitol Police also have been accused of examining the backgrounds and social media feeds of congressional staffers and those seeking meetings with representatives. The enhanced security measure implemented after the riot includes USCP intelligence analysts reviewing the backgrounds of people meeting publicly and privately with lawmakers, according to a recent report by Politico.

The lawmakers also cited plans by Gen. William J. Walker, the House Sergeant at Arms, to conduct background checks on everybody entering the Capitol complex, similar to the more extensive security measures at the White House.

Mr. Walker laid out his priorities in front of a subcommittee of the Administration Committee in January, asserting his intentions of “hardening” the Capitol physically and electronically. 

Another new security measure at the Capitol is a system that would identify all individuals entering the premises, known as the Capitol Access Verification Entry System or CAVES.

“The system would ensure members of Congress and the USCP know exactly who is entering the Capitol Complex and for how long,” Mr. Walker said at the hearing. “CAVES would be a security model based on a strict identity verification process.”

The inspector general opened the investigation in response to revelations that Capitol Police in November entered without permission the office of Rep. Troy Nehls, Texas Republican. Police also took photographs of items in Mr. Nehls’s office.

Capitol Police said they entered Mr. Nehls’s office because a door was left open during the weekend and they were directed to secure the office so no one enters or steals items.

“It is unacceptable that USCP officers took photographs of a representative’s planning materials and questioned his staff on the merits of these items,” the three wrote in the letter to Mr. Bolton. “It is yet another example of members being treated as the threat rather than as duly elected representatives in Congress, here to perform their constitutional duty to serve their constituents.”

In response to a request for comment, USCP offered a statement last week by U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger and a subsequent interview he did with the Associated Press.

In the interview, Mr. Manger refuted claims that the force has become politicized in the wake of the riot.

“When people portray these officers in a way that’s not true, not fair, it undermines the confidence that the public has in my officers as well,” Mr. Manger said. “And that is a disservice to the men and women of this department.”

Mr. Nehls has been a vocal critic of the Democrat-led Jan. 6 committee.

Mr. Nehls, who is a former sheriff, was among five members chosen by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the committee, all of whom were rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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