The Pentagon announced Tuesday that, despite an exhaustive search that involved vetting nearly 25,000 individual members of the National Guard, there was no intelligence to indicate an “insider threat” to President-elect Joe Biden at his swearing-in ceremony.
The Pentagon did remove two members of the National Guard from service on Capitol Hill, however, for alleged ties to “militia” groups, though the Department of Defense did not give specific details on whether either soldier posed a threat to Biden’s safety.
Over the weekend, reports surfaced that believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory had “discussed acting as National Guard soldiers in Washington to try and infiltrate President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration,” according to CNN, citing The Washington Post. “The FBI, in an intelligence report obtained by the Post, said it monitored individuals downloading maps of sensitive areas around Washington and talking about how those locations could be utilized to penetrate security.”
The FBI was quick to note the QAnon believers threatening Biden were likely “lone wolves,” but the rumors seemed to motivate the Pentagon to engage in an intense investigation, interviewing every soldier ordered to report to a post in or near the United States Capitol for potential ties to “right-wing extremism.”
The screening, Major General William Walker told ABC News, was “enhanced with more screening, more details and it’s layered so the FBI is part of it, the Secret Service is part of it and once they are certain that there’s no insider threat then that soldier, guardsman or airman is given a credential.”
On Tuesday, the Pentagon said that “no plot against Biden was found,” according to The Associated Press.
Two soldiers, however, were removed from duty for ties to “militias,” the outlet noted.
“Two U.S. Army National Guard members are being removed from the security mission to secure Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration. A U.S. Army official and a senior U.S. intelligence official said the two National Guard members have been found to have ties to fringe right group militias,” AP reported. ‘The Army official and the intelligence official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity due to Defense Department media regulations. They did not say what fringe group the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in.”
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller told media Monday that there was “no intelligence indicating an insider threat,” according to CNN.
“As is normal for military support to large security events, the Department will vet National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C. While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital,” Miller wrote in a statement discussing the Inauguration. “This type of vetting often takes place by law enforcement for significant security events. However, in this case, the scope of military participation is unique.”
The 25,000 National Guard troops are in Washington in order to keep the peace on Wednesday as Joe Biden takes the oath of office. The Inauguration events were already scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Washington, D.C., is now largely locked down following a January 6th riot and attack on the United States Capitol.
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