Insider Attack? FBI Vets 25,000 National Guard Troops in DC Ahead of Inauguration

In addition to routine reviews for potential extremist connections, all service members are being vetted by the FBI to rule out any potential threat.

The US Presidential inauguration will be different this time for many reasons. While the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed the ceremony, the violent riots at US Capitol on January 6 has added an extra layer of security around the inauguration.

The Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and US military intelligence among other federal agencies have their eyes fixed on President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration for a security threat. They are afraid of an insider attack during the inauguration from service members.

It has forced the FBI to vet all 25,000 members of the National Guard troops deployed in Washington for the event on January 20. While the inauguration event attracts lots of scrutiny due to the presence of the VVIPs of the government, this time, the security has been tightened following the riots in the US Capitol by Pro-Trump supporters who stormed the iconic building in Washington that resulted in five deaths. Many see the incident as an insurrection, an attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government.

President-elect Joe Biden
The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has been blanketed in security Twitter/Joe Biden

Ryan McCarthy, the Army Secretary, told the media on Sunday (January 17) that officials were told to be conscious about potential insider threats. Furthermore, the commanders have been also asked to be on the lookout for any potential problem within their ranks. So far, everything seems to be going according to plans. Officials have not found any evidence of a threat that could come and vetting hasn't provided with red flags either.

Combing Through Database

However, to be on the safer side, officials have been running the names through the database and trying to find any potential threat amongst the security personnel for the inauguration. The process began when troops first arrived in Washington and will go on a day before the event. While service members routinely undergo review for any extremist connection, the FBI is taking an extra step to screen for any potential threat that could have been previously missed.

Capitol riots
The presence of ex-service members in the Capitol riot has forced US Defense officials to review security Wikimedia Commons

"We're continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation. The question is, is that all of them? Are there others? 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," McCarthy told Associated Press, adding that military leaders had to go through exhaustive security drills while National Guard members were also being trained to identify insider threats.

Domestic Terrorism Threat

One may question the intent. But with many members of the US military attending the protest to certify Biden's election and some veterans involved in the riot, the US defense officials don't want to leave anything to chance. That apart, the recent bomb blast in Nashville, Tennessee also had law enforcement trying to find a conspiracy theory connection. With many rioters belonging to groups that support QAnon and white supremacists, it has security officials worried.

Ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20, security has been beefed up around the US capital (representative image) Wikimedia Commons

Such extreme security measures have been present since the 9/11 attack. But no President's inauguration has had such large security personnel deployment. Every member of the security detail has been going through the Washington DC map and trying to find potential vulnerabilities in security. General Daniel R Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that the processes involved were good to identify any potential threats.

"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.

This article was first published on January 18, 2021