2 National Guard Members Removed From Inauguration Security After Ties Found to Far-Right Groups
No plot was detected as the Army and FBI work to vet more than 25,000 Guard troops sent to Washington, D.C., to help ensure safety during President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration
Two National Guard members found to have ties to far-right militia groups have been removed from their assignments to help secure the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden from outside threats, reports the Associated Press.
No wider plot was discovered, according to the report, which cites an unnamed U.S. Army official and a senior U.S. intelligence official.
State or alleged militia affiliations of the two Guard members were not revealed.
Overall 12 National Guard members were taken off inauguration duty following FBI security vetting, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters Tuesday, according to NBC News. Two of them "were identified as making inappropriate comments or texts," in one case revealed by an anonymous tip and in the other case, after fellow Guard members brought the member's comments to the attention of Guard officers, he said.
He declined to further elaborate about those comments or whether they were linked to extremist groups. The other 10 Guard troops were removed from the assignment "for a number of different reasons," Hoffman said.
"Due to operational security, we do not discuss the process nor the outcome of the vetting process for military members supporting the inauguration," the National Guard Bureau said in response to questions from the AP. Instead, it directed those questions to the Secret Service, which also declined to address whether any Guard members had been removed due to inauguration security concerns.
According to The Washington Post, more than 25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed to Washington, D.C., ahead of Wednesday's inaugural ceremonies outside the U.S. Capitol, the scene of a Jan. 6 siege by supporters of outgoing President Trump.
More than 100 people have been arrested for alleged involvement in the siege, according to the FBI, reports the BBC.
Several of the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol were revealed to have military ties, according to the Post. The Army has been working with the FBI in an effort to vet service members assigned to the inauguration detail out of an abundance of caution, a U.S. defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the newspaper.
Tight security in the city has produced a series of checkpoints erected around the National Mall, with some streets blocked by armored military trucks as a lockdown prepares for Wednesday's events, reports The New York Times.
Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, said the screening of Guard troops ahead of the inauguration represented an "extra layer" of security beyond regular, continuous monitoring by the U.S. military of its service personnel, he said in an interview with Defense One, reports the Post.
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"For this deployment everybody is screened additionally, but it's more of a reassurance, because we do everything we can do [to] know our Guardsmen, our soldiers and airmen," he said.
Prior to the report that the two Guard members had been removed, the Army said in a statement, "There is no place for extremism in the military and we will investigate each report individually and take appropriate action," according to the Post. "The Army is committed to working closely with the FBI as they identify people who participated in the violent attack on the Capitol to determine if the individuals have any connection to the Army."
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