The FBI is reviewing all 25,000 National Guard troops charged with securing the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris on January 20 in fears of a coordinated inside attack, the Associated Press said.
Investigations into the January 6 uprising in the U.S. Capitol revealed that police officers were involved: Nearly 30 sworn officers attended at least the pre-uprising rally, and other officers were arrested for their involvement in the uprising themselves. And several National Guard members were arrested in connection with the Capitol attack, the AP reported, including Virginia National Guard Cpl. Jacob Fracker.
After the attack on the Capitol, 25,000 National Guard troops in the Capitol were asked to guarantee the inauguration security and to protect themselves from further unrest. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP that officials "are aware of the potential threat" the Guard may pose and instructed commanders to "look out for problems within their ranks".
The review, which began about a week ago, includes a pre-trip screening to Washington and a background check that "has been improved with more screening," Maj. General William Walker told ABC News. Walker added that the expanded process involves the Secret Service and the FBI. So far the entire verification process has no red flags surfaced, said the AP.
While the publication described the review process as a "massive undertaking," a National Guard Bureau spokesman told Vox on Monday that the ongoing review process was a normal process and was sensational.
"This is a normal part of the job at any inauguration," Maj. Matt Murphy told Vox. "It is the normal registration process for anyone attending the inauguration, regardless of whether they are journalists, helpers or catering staff, and have access to within the area."
The registration process for the initiation is routine. But for 25,000 soldiers it is unprecedented.
What is different this year is the number of National Guard troops, and therefore the time it takes to check each one. As of Monday, the DC National Guard had more than 21,500 members and troops were flying into Guam.
Under normal circumstances, around 8,000 to 10,000 members of the National Guard help with the inauguration with logistics – including traffic management and escorting people on the premises – as well as manning security checkpoints. "What is causing concern is the sheer number of troops that federal agencies have requested," Murphy said. "The FBI or Secret Service authentication process is routine, but this year we happen to have an additional 25,000 soldiers who are needed."
As Vox's Alex Ward reported, officials have not directly explained why 25,000 National Guard troops were needed to prevent a situation similar to Jan. 6. All that is known is that federal security officials have cause for concern. In a briefing with Mike Pence last Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, "We are seeing a huge amount of online chatter – this is how I would best describe it – about a number of inauguration-related events."
So far, security has resulted in some arrests: over the weekend, three people were arrested and arrested by police at security checkpoints near the Capitol, two for carrying unregistered or unlicensed weapons.
Regarding the risk of an inside attack, Murphy told Vox that the National Guard follows a certain process that has always involved federal agencies.
"If there are inappropriate associations or statements from service members, it is actually a federal agency that notifies the National Guard Bureau that that person may be saying or posting inappropriate things." Once the federal agency notifies the National Guard Bureau, the bureau will notify the local command and conduct an investigation. For the inauguration, the FBI will determine what happens if they identify a threat.
But the process is nothing out of the ordinary, especially for national security-level events like the inauguration or the Super Bowl, Murphy claimed.
The DC National Guard offers additional training to service members upon arrival in the district. Part of this training consists of observing colleagues. Members are told that if they "see or hear something that is inappropriate" they should "report it to their chain of command."
This unique preparation is intended to complement the annual training of the guards as part of the Threat Awareness and Reporting Program (TARP). An army spokesperson sent a statement via email that personnel must report any information about known or suspected extremist behavior that could pose a threat to the Department of Defense or the country.
The statement also stated: “There is no place for extremism in the military and we will examine each report individually and take appropriate action. Any type of activity that involves violence, civil disobedience, or a violation of the peace can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state or federal law. "
Support Vox explanatory journalism
At Vox, we want to answer your most important questions every day and provide you and our audiences around the world with information that empowers you through understanding. Vox's work reaches more people than ever before, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism is consuming resources. Your financial contribution is not a donation, but it does allow our staff to continue offering free articles, videos and podcasts to everyone who needs them. Please consider contributing to Vox today, starting at $ 3.