All of the 25,000 National Guard troops deployed to Washington, D.C., for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration are reportedly being vetted by the FBI over security fears.
Concerns by U.S. defense officials about an insider attack from service members has prompted the significant effort in the wake of the violence that broke out at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, according to a report by The Associated Press.
As the inauguration approaches on Wednesday, officials are taking extra precautions to protect the incoming president and all of the important guests who will be in attendance. After the riot at the Capitol earlier this month resulting in five deaths, the number of National Guard members deployed during the presidential inauguration was increased from 15,000 to 20,000.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP on Sunday that commanders have been alerted to be on the lookout for any problems as officials are being attentive to potential threats.
Although no evidence of any threats have been uncovered as of yet, and the massive undertaking of vetting troops has not yielded any red flags, McCarthy indicated that the security process will be thorough.
”We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy told the outlet following a three-hour security drill with other military leaders as they prepared for Wednesday’s inauguration.
National Guard members were being trained to identify potential insider threats. The thousands of troops arriving in Washington are two and a half times the number deployed for previous presidential inaugurations, as the FBI is also now providing the extra screening in addition to the routine vetting, according to the AP, which noted that the process began a week ago.
“The question is, is that all of them? Are there others?” McCarthy said. “We need to be conscious of it and we need to put all of the mechanisms in place to thoroughly vet these men and women who would support any operations like this.”
National guard troops now have cots to sleep on, rather than having to rest on the cold, marble floors of the U.S. Capitol. pic.twitter.com/6Uk3R4ygxF
— Julie Tsirkin (@JulieNBCNews) January 17, 2021
“If there’s any indication,” Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “that any of our soldiers or airmen are expressing things that are extremist views, it’s either handed over to law enforcement or dealt with the chain of command immediately.”
While the Secret Service is in charge of security at Wednesday’s event, other military and law enforcement personnel are also participating in addition to the National Guard and the FBI, including Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Capitol Police, and U.S. Park Police.
On Sunday, a security rehearsal by officials and commanders was held in northern Virginia.
According to The Associated Press:
As many as three dozen leaders lined tables that ringed a massive color-coded map of D.C. reflected onto the floor. Behind them were dozens more National Guard officers and staff, with their eyes trained on additional maps and charts displayed on the wall.
Commanders went over every aspect of the city’s complicated security lockdown, with McCarthy and others peppering them with questions about how the troops will respond in any scenario and how well they can communicate with the other enforcement agencies scattered around the city.
National Guard members, many of whom will be armed on Wednesday, are going through “constant mental repetitions of looking at the map and talking through scenarios with leaders so they understand their task and purpose, they know their routes, they know where their friendly adjacent units are, they have the appropriate frequencies to communicate with their law enforcement partners,” according to McCarthy.
He indicated that groups are allegedly organizing armed rallies in the days leading up to Inauguration Day according to intelligence reports.
“This is a national priority. We have to be successful as an institution,” he said. “We want to send the message to everyone in the United States and for the rest of the world that we can do this safely and peacefully.”
According to a statement issued by the U.S. Army on Sunday, and obtained by Fox News, all service members are acquainted with the Threat Awareness and Reporting Program, which “requires department personnel to report any information regarding known or suspected extremist behavior that could be a threat to the department or the U.S.”
“Any type of activity that involves violence, civil disobedience, or a breach of peace,” the statement read, “may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state or federal law.”