The FBI is reportedly vetting every single National Guard troop stationed in Washington, D.C. for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration this week. According to a report by The Associated Press, U.S. defense officials are worried about an attack from the inside, or about service members cooperating with domestic terrorists.
This new security concern would have been unthinkable for the U.S. military not long ago, but now officials are sharing it openly with reporters. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy spoke with the AP on record, describing the massive undertaking of vetting every individual guarding the capitol this week. "We're continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation," he said.
D.C. is already full of National Guard troopers and other enhanced law enforcement officers following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and more are reportedly streaming in every day. By Inauguration Day, about 25,000 troops will be on hand — at least two-and-a-half times the number usually needed for this transfer of power.
The military has its own routine processes for reviewing National Guard members and checking their backgrounds for any extremist connections. Given the recent rise of far-right extremism in the U.S., however, the FBI is reportedly screening more carefully for associations with militias, groups like the Proud Boys, or with online disinformation campaigns like QAnon.
In addition to McCarthy, several other officials reportedly spoke on the condition of anonymity. They said that the enhanced review process began early last week and will continue through Wednesday. McCarthy suggested that checks like this might need to become more common.
"The question is, is that all of them? Are there others?" he wondered. "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."0comments
The officials confirmed that "only a couple of current active-duty or National Guard members" were arrested in connection with the Capitol riot so far, but some expect more arrests soon, given the number of troops who ardently support Trump. Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, said that he believes the vetting processes will root out any other insurrectionists in their ranks.
"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 said. Biden's inauguration begins at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.