U.S. defense officials say they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, urging the FBI to veterinarian all 25,000 National Guard troops coming to Washington for the event.
The massive commitment reflects the extraordinary security problems that have gripped Washington since the deadly uprising on January 6 in the US capital of pro-Trump rebels. And it underscores the fear that some of the people who have been assigned to protect the city in the next few days may pose a threat to the incoming president and other VIP participants.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the Associated Press on Sunday that officials are aware of the potential threat and he warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks as the inauguration approaches. So far, he and other leaders say they have not seen any evidence of any threats, and officials said the inspectorate had not flagged any issues they were aware of.
“We are constantly going through the process and looking at the second, third look at each of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy said in an interview after he and other military leaders went through an exhaustive, three-hour security exercise in preparation for Wednesday’s inauguration. . He said Guard members are also being trained in how to identify potential insider threats.
About 25,000 National Guard members flock to Washington from across the country – at least two and a half times the number of previous inaugurations. And while the military routinely inspects service members for extremist links, FBI screening is beyond any previous surveillance.
Several officials said the process began when the first guards began distributing to DC more than a week ago. And they said it was scheduled to be ready by Wednesday. Several officials discussed military planning on condition of anonymity.
“The question is, is it all? Are there others? In McCarthy. “We need to be aware of that and we need to put in place all the mechanisms to deeply veterinate these men and women who would support all such surgeries.”
In a situation like this, an FBI investigation would mean that the people’s names would be run through databases and watch lists kept by the agency to see if anything alarming came up. This could include involvement in previous investigations or terrorism-related problems, said David Gomez, a former FBI national security guard in Seattle.
Insider threats have been a persistent priority for law enforcement in the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. But in most cases, the threats from domestic insurgencies have been radicalized by al-Qaeda, the Islamic State or similar groups. However, the threats against Biden’s inauguration have been driven by supporters of President Donald Trump, right-wing extremist militants, white supremacists and other radical groups. Many believe Trump’s baseless allegations that the election was stolen from him, a claim that has been rejected by many courts, the Department of Justice and Republican officials in key battlefield states.
The uprising at the Capitol began after Trump made burning comments at the January 6 demonstration. According to McCarthy, service members from all over the military were at that meeting, but it is not clear how many were there or who may have participated in the intrusion at the Capitol. To date, only a few current members of active duty or national guard have been arrested in connection with the Capitol attack, which left five people dead. The dead included a Capitol police officer and a woman who was shot by police as she climbed through a window in a door near the house.
General Daniel R. Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, has met guard troops as they arrive in DC and as they gather in downtown. He said he believes there are good processes to identify potential threats.
“If there is any indication that any of our soldiers or pilots are expressing things that are extremist, it is either handed over to law enforcement or dealt with immediately by the chain of command,” he said.
However, the insider threat was just one of the security problems from officials on Sunday, as dozens of military personnel, the National Guard, law enforcement and Washington, DC, officials and commanders went through a security rope in northern Virginia. As many as three dozen leaders lined tables that rang a massive color-coded DC map that was reflected on the floor. Behind them stood dozens of national guardsmen and staff, staring at additional maps and charts displayed on the wall.
The Secret Service is responsible for security, but there is a wide range of military and law enforcement personnel involved, from the National Guard and the FBI to the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, the US Capitol Police and the US Park Police.
Commanders went through all aspects of the city’s complicated security locks, with McCarthy and others pissing them off with questions about how troops will react in any scenario and how well they can communicate with the other regulators scattered around the city.
Hokanson said he believes his troops have been adequately equipped and prepared, and that they are practicing as much as they can to be prepared for any preparedness.
The biggest security problem is an attack by armed groups of individuals, as well as planted explosives and other devices. McCarthy said intelligence reports suggest groups are organizing armed rallies until and after the inauguration.
The majority of the guard members will be armed. And McCarthy said units go through repeated exercises to train when and how to use force and how to work quickly with law enforcement partners. Police would make all the arrests.
He said that security units go through “constant mental repetitions of looking at the map and talking through scenarios with leaders so that they understand their task and purpose, they know their routes, they know where they are friendly, adjacent units, they have appropriate frequencies to communicate with their law enforcement partners. ”
The most important goal, he said, is for the United States to transfer power without incident.
“This is a national priority. We must be successful as an institution, says McCarthy. “We want to send the message to everyone in the United States and to the rest of the world that we can do this safely and peacefully.”