National Guard Commanders on Alert for Inside Attack on Inauguration, Army Secretary Says

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has warned National Guard commanders to be on the lookout for any potential inside threats from service members assigned to security operations for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

Concerns about a possible inside attack among defense officials have prompted the FBI to screen tens of thousands of National Guard troops sent to Washington D.C. to help secure Biden's inauguration, according to the Associated Press.

"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 outlet 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.

In a statement to Newsweek, an Army spokesperson said, "We are working with the Secret Services to determine which service members supporting the national special security event for the Inauguration require additional background screening."

Additionally, the National Guard is also proving additional training to service members as they arrive in D.C. that if they see or hear something inappropriate, they should report it to their chain of command, according to the spokesperson,

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.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy in Capitol building
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill December 03, 2019. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Multiple officials told the outlet that the FBI began screening the Guard troops over a week ago and will likely conclude the process by 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."

Newsweek reached out to the Defense Department for comment.

Around 25,000 members of the National Guard have been summoned to D.C. ahead of Biden's inauguration, at least double the number present at previous inaugurations. Vice President Mike Pence visited members at the Capitol on Thursday, shaking hands and thanking some stationed at the building.

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 outlet 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."

Officials reportedly voiced several other concerns on Sunday, during a security rehearsal involving members of the military, National Guard, law enforcement and local D.C. officials. McCarthy said intelligence reports indicate that armed groups of individuals are still the leading security threat to Inauguration Day.

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," McCarthy told the outlet.

"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."

This story has been updated to include comment from an Army spokesperson.