Two Army National Guard members are being removed from the mission to secure Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration. A U.S. Army official and a senior U.S. intelligence official said the two National Guard members have been found to have ties to fringe right group militias.
No plot against Biden was found.
The Army official and the intelligence official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity due to Defense Department media regulations. They did not say what fringe group the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in.
Contacted by the AP on Tuesday, the National Guard Bureau referred questions to the U.S. Secret Service and said, “Due to operational security, we do not discuss the process nor the outcome of the vetting process for military members supporting the inauguration.”
The Secret Service told the AP on Monday it would not comment on if any National Guard members had been pulled from securing the inauguration for operational security reasons.
Such a move is not without precedent.
Over the summer, an Ohio National Guard member was removed from the mission in Washington, D.C., after the FBI uncovered information indicating they expressed white supremacist ideology on the internet prior to the assignment.
The individual was a soldier from the Ohio Guard’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, based in the northwest part of the state. The soldier was a private first class who has been a member since May 2018, said Ohio Guard spokeswoman Stephanie Beougher in a statement.
It comes after it was revealed that the FBI was vetting all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event amid concerns of insider threats.
Reports of the two Guards being removed emerged after the National Guard chief, General Daniel Hokanson, said the 25,000 armed troops protecting Washington DC were ‘trained and ready for anything’ and he wasn’t concerned about the potential for insider threat.
Gen. Hokanson said the vetting of his troops was standard practice but was heightened given the large number of Guardsman brought in to fortify DC in the wake of the insurrection at Capitol by pro-Trump rioters.
In addition to the 25,000 National Guardsman, the Pentagon also authorized 750 active-duty troops with expertise in chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological, and explosive weapons to provide additional security in the capital.
‘We’ve done a lot of work. We’re making sure that our folks are trained and ready for anything they’re going to be asked to do. Our folks are always trained in de-escalation techniques,’ Gen Hokanson told NBC’s Today on Tuesday.
He said the decision to arm his troops during the inauguration was made by the Secret Service amid the ongoing threats.
Gen Hokanson said he wasn’t concerned about the potential for an insider attack from service members involved in securing the inauguration after defense officials raised concerns.
National Guard General Daniel Hokanson said the 25,000 armed troops that are now protecting Washington DC are ‘trained and ready for anything’ +16
National Guard General Daniel Hokanson said the 25,000 armed troops that are now protecting Washington DC are ‘trained and ready for anything’
‘It’s not a threat for me, I’m not concerned about that at all. If you look at our National Guardsman, we vet them throughout the process. We don’t allow extremism of any type in our organization,’ he said.
‘As we look at this as a national special security event… this type of vetting is standard.’
Gen Hokanson has been meeting with Guard troops as they arrive in DC and as they gather downtown. He said he believes there are good processes in place to identify any potential threats.
It comes after Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press that officials are conscious 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, however, he and other leaders say they have seen no evidence of any threats, and officials said the vetting hadn’t flagged any issues that they were aware of.
‘We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,’ McCarthy said.
He said Guard members are also getting training on how to identify potential insider threats.
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.
While the military routinely reviews service members for extremist connections, the FBI screening is in addition to any previous monitoring.
As security continues to intensify in DC ahead of the inauguration, defense officials told Politico that 750 active-duty troops had been deployed this week to the capital.
Those personnel are experts in handling chemical and nuclear weapons, as well as experience disposing of explosives.
Among the active-duty personnel are medical teams trained in responding to trauma.
It comes as the Capitol complex temporarily locked down on Monday during an inauguration rehearsal after a fire in a homeless encampment roughly a mile away sent a plume of smoke into the air and caused security concerns in the already on-edge city.
Military personnel and staffers could be seen running from the temporary seating on the Capitol Building’s West Front as an evacuation warning played in the background.
Law enforcement officials later confirmed there was no threat to the public and the fire was not believed to be a threat to the inauguration.
The evacuation of some participants and the lockdown were ordered by the acting chief of Capitol Police in an abundance of caution.
But the fast decision to lock down underscores the fear that has gripped Washington since the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters.
Attempts to fortify Washington have been ongoing ever since with the city now an armed fortress fenced off with razor wire.
Armed protests planned for this past weekend around the country were mostly a bust, but anxiety is still skyrocketing.
The major security concern for the inauguration 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.