Event Recaps

Issue One and Protect Democracy Host National Security Press Briefing Ahead of Jan. 6 Hearings

National Council on Election Integrity members Secretary Panetta and Admiral Owens participate in discussion

  • Jonas Poggi

This week, Issue One partnered with Protect Democracy for a joint press briefing to highlight the security implications of the January 6th attack on our democratic republic, the ongoing threats to our national security, and the historic nature of the hearings beginning this week led by the select committee investigating the events that led to the deadly assault on our Capitol.

The event featured former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Admiral Bill Owens, who are both members of Issue One’s bipartisan National Council on Election Integrity, as well as Olivia Troye, former Homeland Security Advisor to former Vice President Mike Pence. Protect Democracy’s Alexandra Chandler moderated the discussion.

Watch a recording of the press briefing here.

“The attack that this country suffered on 9/11 was a wakeup call to the threat of international terrorism on the security of our democracy. The attack on January 6th was a wakeup call to the threat of domestic terrorism on the security of our democracy,” Secretary Panetta said during his opening remarks. “The mob that attacked the Capitol was intent on undermining our democracy and the rule of law. It was a violent effort to prevent the peaceful transition of power following a record turnout of voters in a free and fair election. An election that was declared the most secure in American history… Make no mistake, January 6th sent a message of weakness to the world, and in particular a message of weakness to our adversaries.”

Furthermore, Secretary Panetta underscored the importance of updating the Electoral Count Act (ECA), an ambiguous law governing Congress’ role in the counting of electoral votes that is susceptible to misinterpretation, as the world witnessed last year. A bipartisan ECA update would protect the will of the people and insulate the country from a full-blown constitutional crisis following future presidential elections.

Admiral Owens also discussed the threats facing our national security, from domestic extremism to election instability. “I’m here with you today because I give a damn about what happens to this country, and I think the Constitution is something that is so sacrosanct to all of us,” he said.

During the Q&A, the participants commented on a number of dangerous trends facing our national security, from the spread of disinformation to the rise of authoritarianism on the global stage, as well as the negative impact January 6th had on our international standing.

“If we fail to have some sort of accountability… it diminishes us in the eyes of the world,” Troye said. “In America, no one is above the law. Regardless of how much power you have, regardless of how much money you have, crimes are investigated and prosecuted. That is the rule of law in the United States.”

Secretary Panetta concluded his remarks with a strong call to action: “To be secure, we must be strong. And we cannot be strong unless we are truthful about the threats that face our country, both at home and abroad. I believe it is in the interest of our national security for the American people to get a full and truthful accounting of what happened on January 6th so that we can strengthen our commitment to our Constitution, the rule of law, a free and fair election process, and a democracy that has the responsibility to support strong moral leadership in the 21st century.”

The January 6th Select Committee will hold its first in a series of public hearings this Thursday, June 9, at 8pm EDT.