National Guard Vetting Underscores Inauguration Security Concerns

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Beth Dalbey
·4 min read
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ACROSS AMERICA — U.S. Defense officials are worried about an insider attack or threat from the ranks of the 25,000 National Guard troops streaming into the capital city to secure President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday. The FBI is vetting the soldiers, a massive undertaking that reflects the extraordinary security precautions prompted by the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by rioters loyal to President Donald Trump.

Fears of violent clashes with armed protesters did not materialize Sunday.

Small groups of protesters, some with long guns, gathered in peaceful protests at heavily fortified statehouses, where National Guard troops outnumbered demonstrators. Many of them demonstrated in support of Trump’s baseless accusations the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him — a claim rejected by many courts, the Justice Department and Republican election officials in key battleground states.

“I don’t trust the results of the election,” Michigan protester Martin Szelag, a 67-year-old semi-retired window salesman from Dearborn Heights, told The Associated Press. He wore a sign around his neck that read, in part, “We will support Joe Biden as our President if you can convince us he won legally. Show us the proof! Then the healing can begin.”

The FBI vetting of the very people charged with protecting Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and other VIPs underscores the extreme security precautions officials are taking in the days ahead of the inauguration.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press Sunday the vetting so far hadn’t flagged any issues, but said he warned National Guard commanders to be on the lookout for problems within their ranks. A couple of current active-duty National Guard members have been arrested in the Capitol riot that left five people dead, prompted a sprawling FBI investigation and led to Trump’s historic second impeachment.

Service members from across the military were at the Trump’s Jan. 6 rally, the day a joint session of Congress met to certify the 2020 Electoral College results, but it’s not known how many may have participated in the breach at the Capitol, McCarthy said.

The military routinely reviews service members for extremist connections, but the FBI screening is in addition to previous monitoring, McCarthy said.

“We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy told The AP in an interview after he and other military leaders went through an exhaustive, three-hour security drill in preparation for Wednesday’s inauguration. He said Guard members are also getting training on how to identify potential insider threats.

The exhaustive review is slated to be completed by Wednesday.

“The question is, is that all of them? Are there others?” said McCarthy. “We need to be conscious of it, and we need to put all the mechanisms in place to thoroughly vet these men and women who would support any operations like this.”

The Department of Defense on Monday announced it is deploying an additional 2,750 active duty personnel to the Capitol before the Wednesday event. Of those, some 2,000 will serve in “ceremonial support” roles.

The remaining 750 specialize in handling chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological and explosive threats and offering trauma-response medical support.

The Capitol was briefly evacuated on Monday after a fire broke out at a nearby homeless encampment, putting a halt to a rehearsal for Wednesday's inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The fire was extinguished quickly, and no injuries were reported, according to DC fire and EMS.

Across America

Here’s a look at some of the protests and new developments across America:

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This article originally appeared on the Across America Patch