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US defense officials say they are concerned about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to examine all 25,000 soldiers in the National Guard who entered Washington for the event.

The massive undertaking reflects the extraordinary security concerns that have gripped Washington after the deadly January 6 insurrection in the United States Capitol by pro-Trump protesters.

It underscores fears that some of the same people assigned to protect the city over the next few days may pose a threat to the incoming president and other important personalities present.

Law enforcement stands near the Capitol before President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take office on Sunday, Jan.17, 2021, in Washington.  (AP Photo / David Goldman)
Law enforcement stands near the Capitol before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. (AP)

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press yesterday that officials are aware of the potential threat and warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks as the inauguration approaches.

However, so far, he and other leaders say they have seen no evidence of threats, and officials said the investigation had not pointed to any problems.

“We are continually going through the process, and we vet second and third every single person assigned to this operation,” McCarthy said in an interview after he and other military leaders went through a comprehensive three-hour security drill. . in preparation for the opening on Wednesday.

He said members of the Guard are also receiving training on how to identify potential insider threats.

About 25,000 National Guard members are arriving in Washington from across the country, at least two and a half times the number of previous inaugurations.

While the military routinely screens service members for extremist connections, the FBI’s review adds to any previous monitoring.

Several officials said the process began when the first Guard troops began deploying to Washington DC more than a week ago, and said it is scheduled to be completed on Wednesday.

“The question is, is it all of them? There’s others? “Said Mr. McCarthy.

“We have to be aware of this and we have to put all the mechanisms in place to scrutinize these men and women who would support any operation like this.”

President-elect Joe Biden. (AP)

In a situation like this, the FBI investigation would involve running people’s names through databases and watchlists maintained by the office to see if anything alarming comes up.

That could include involvement in previous investigations or concerns related to terrorism, said David Gomez, a former FBI homeland security supervisor in Seattle.

Insider threats have been a persistent law enforcement priority in the years since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But in most cases, the threats come from local insurgents radicalized by al-Qaida, the Islamic State group or similar groups.

In contrast, threats against Biden’s inauguration have been driven by supporters of President Donald Trump, far-right militants, white supremacists, and other radical groups.

Many believe Trump’s unfounded allegations that he stole the election, a claim that has been disproved by many courts, the Justice Department, and Republican officials in key states on the battlefield.

The insurrection on Capitol Hill began after Trump made inflammatory remarks at the Jan.6 rally.

According to McCarthy, service members from across the military were at that rally, but it’s unclear how many were there or who may have participated in the breach on Capitol Hill.

So far, only a couple of current active duty or National Guard members have been arrested in connection with the assault on the Capitol, which left five dead.

Among the dead are a Capitol police officer and a woman shot by police while climbing through a window in a door near the House chamber.

US defense officials say they are concerned about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. (AP)

Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, has been meeting with Guard troops when they arrive in DC and meet downtown.

He said he believes there are good processes in place to identify any potential threats.

“If there is any indication that any of our soldiers or airmen are expressing extremist views, they surrender to law enforcement or deal with the chain of command immediately,” he said.

However, the internal threat was just one of the security concerns voiced by officials yesterday, when dozens of military personnel, the National Guard, law enforcement and Washington, DC, officials and commanders went through a security rehearsal in the north. from Virginia.

Up to three dozen leaders lined up at tables surrounding a huge color-coded map of DC reflected on the floor. Behind them were dozens more officers and National Guard personnel, their eyes focused on additional maps and graphics displayed on the wall.

The Secret Service is in charge of security for the event, but there are a wide variety of military and law enforcement personnel involved, ranging from the National Guard and the FBI to Washington, DC, Capitol and Park Police.

The commanders reviewed all aspects of the city’s complicated security lockdown, and McCarthy and others peppered them with questions about how the troops will respond in any scenario and how well they can communicate with the other enforcement agencies scattered around the city.

The United States Capitol is seen through anti-escalation security fences. (AP)

General Hokanson said he believes his troops have been adequately equipped and prepared, and that they are trying everything they can to be prepared for any contingency.

The main security problem is an attack by armed groups of people, as well as planted explosives and other devices.

McCarthy said intelligence reports suggest that the groups are staging armed demonstrations before Opening Day, and possibly after that.

Most of the members of the Guard will be armed. And McCarthy said units are going through repeated drills to practice when and how to use force and how to quickly work with law enforcement partners. Law enforcement officers would make any arrests.

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