Defense officials are worried about a potential insider attack, or another sort of threat from service members who will be involved in President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, reports the Associated Press. As a result, the FBI is vetting all 25,000 National Guard troops who are going to be in Washington, D.C. to help secure the event, reports the Washington Post. “We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP. McCarthy has warned commanders to be vigilant about any potential problems or discontent within their ranks but so far there has been no evidence of any threats.
The approximately 25,000 National Guard members who will help secure the inauguration is at least two and a half times the number of previous inaugural ceremonies. Despite the high numbers, officials are convinced they’ll get the vetting done on time, saying it began last week and will continue until Wednesday.
The screening effort will at the very least involve running their names through databases and watchlists to see if anything pops up. “For this deployment everybody is screened additionally, but it’s more of a reassurance, because we do everything we can do know our Guardsmen, our soldiers and airmen,” Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, said in an interview with Defense One. The process marks a change from last week when the Army said it would work with the Secret Service to figure out which troops would need to undergo additional screening, notes NBC News.
Concern about the possible involvement of service members in a potential attack comes amid reports that current law enforcement and military officers appear to have participated in the January 6 riot at the Capitol. A Virginia National Guard corporal was charged last week in connection with the insurrection. Plus, two Capitol Police officers who were seen taking selfies with rioters have been suspended and others are under investigation. A defense official tells the Post that the Pentagon was notified of 143 probes related to extremism among current and former service members last year, including 68 that had to do with suspected domestic extremism, “a category that includes white nationalism, anti-fascist, antiabortion and anti-government beliefs.” Most of the cases had to do with veterans.