U.S defense officials are concerned about a possible insider attack from service members tasked with ensuring the security of former Vice President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The alarm has induced the FBI to vet each of the 25,000 National Guard troops that will be deployed in D.C. for the ceremony.
The decision to deploy the National Guard was made due to concerns that arose following the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riots at the U.S. Capitol building. The fact that some members of the military are believed to have been a part of the unrest is only adding to the trepidation surrounding the event.
On Sunday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press that defense officials are aware of the possible threat and cautioned commanders to watch out for potential issues in their ranks. But, so far, leaders have not seen any evidence suggesting any threats and that the FBI vetting had not discovered any red flags.
“We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy explained.
From the AP:
About 25,000 members of the National Guard are streaming into Washington from across the country — at least two and a half times the number for previous inaugurals. And while the military routinely reviews service members for extremist connections, the FBI screening is in addition to any previous monitoring.
Multiple officials said the process began as the first Guard troops began deploying to D.C. more than a week ago. And they said it is slated to be complete by Wednesday. Several officials discussed military planning on condition of anonymity.
In this type of scenario, the FBI’s vetting would “running peoples’ names through databases and watchlists maintained by the bureau to see if anything alarming comes up,” according to The Associated Press.
In the past, insider threats have been a priority for law enforcement after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, they focused primarily on threats from homegrown terrorists radicalized by radical Islamic terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. But now, they are focused mainly on far-right militants.
Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, who heads the National Guard Bureau, stated that he has been meeting with troops as they arrive in the area. “If there’s any indication 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,” he noted.
However, despite the processes in place, the AP pointed out:
The major security concern is an attack by armed groups of individuals, as well as planted explosives and other devices. McCarthy said intelligence reports suggest that groups are organizing armed rallies leading up to Inauguration Day, and possibly after that.
The bulk of the Guard members will be armed. And McCarthy said units are going through repeated drills to practice when and how to use force and how to work quickly with law enforcement partners. Law enforcement officers would make any arrests.
McCarthy stressed that troops 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 they’re friendly, adjacent units are, they have the appropriate frequencies to communicate with their law enforcement partners.”
Washington, D.C. is not the only place that is taking precautions against potential violence on inauguration day. As my colleague Nick Arama noted, various measures are being taken all over the country to stop a possible attack.
Additionally, all 50 states are securing their capitol buildings in anticipation of potential unrest. Some protests have already begun in some states. But, as The New York Post noted, “the events were muted and devoid of violence.”
Chances are, there will be more protests on inauguration day without violence. While right-wing extremist groups do exist, they might not try to commit an attack with so much security around. But there is one thing we can be clear about: If someone does try to engage in violence, we know who will get the blame, don’t we?