With tens of thousands of National Guard members heading to D.C. for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the FBI and Department of Defense are reportedly digging into their backgrounds in order to head off a potential attack or disaster similar to the overrunning of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
There will be 25,000 troops stationed in D.C., a beefed up presence from the more than 10,000 members who were on duty for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, and roughly 7,400 for President Donald Trump’s inauguration four years ago. The FBI will vet all of them in an attempt to root out potential threats to the inauguration, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Biden’s inauguration will see the largest deployment of American troops in the nation’s capital since the Civil War.
The move follows the pro-Trump riots at the Capitol earlier this month, which has so far resulted in over a hundred arrests and five deaths, including one Capitol Police officer. Virginia National Guard infantryman Jacob Fracker, who is also a police officer in Rocky Mount, Virginia, was arrested for his alleged involvement in the riot, and is one of dozens of police officers either under internal or criminal investigation.
During the riot, Gov. Ralph Northam deployed the National Guard to assist Capitol police, and Northam later extended the deployment through Biden’s inauguration.
Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, an Army reservist and Naval contractor from New Jersey who’s allegedly a white supremacist and neo-Nazi sympathizer, was arrested Sunday and charged with multiple counts related to the Jan. 6 riot. Hale-Cusanelli is allegedly “an avowed white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer” and has a “secret” security clearance at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey, where he “has access to a variety of munitions,” according to a sworn affadavit signed by a Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) agent.
So far, there’s not much indication of major protests during Biden’s inauguration, as the National Park Service has only approved one permit so far for a pro-Trump rally that organizers expected to draw 300 participants, the Washingtonian reported last week. The National Park Service announced last week that it would close the National Mall through Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration.
”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. “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.”
The Secret Service declined to say what methods they would use to vet the National Guard troops, though former FBI national security supervisor David Gomez told the AP that the process would likely involve using databases and watchlists to find red flags.
“In order to maintain critical operational security surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration, the U.S. Secret Service and our law enforcement partners will not be commenting on the means and methods used to conduct the agency mission, inclusive of protective intelligence matters,” the Secret Service told VICE News in a statement.
National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson told the AP that “if there’s 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.”