Pentagon officials say they have issued a “security threat alert” over fears of an “insider attack” from service members assigned to security operations for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Associated Press reports.
The warning prompted the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event, according got the report.
“We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP on Sunday.
The official noted that the vetting has not yet produced evidence of such threats, and leaders have also not seen any other evidence to suggest problems from within their ranks. Regardless, he said that National Guard members are being trained to identify potential insider threats.
Fears of violence surrounding Biden’s inauguration have mounted in the days following the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, which left five dead, including a Capitol police officer.
Multiple officials told the AP that the FBI began screening the Guard troops over a week ago and will likely continue the process until inauguration day.
“The question is, is that all of them? Are there others?” McCarthy said. “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 also told the outlet that members of the National Guard have been “looking at the map and talking through scenarios with leaders so they understand their task and purpose, they know their routes, they know where they’re friendly, adjacent units are, they have the appropriate frequencies to communicate with their law enforcement partners.”
“This is a national priority. We have to be successful as an institution,” he added. “We want to send the message to everyone in the United States and for the rest of the world that we can do this safely and peacefully.”
Many other states —including Texas, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania— have also boosted security or shuttered their capitol buildings in anticipation of potential violence in the days leading up to, and possibly after, Biden’s inauguration.
Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told the AP that if the FBI finds “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.”