Virginia National Guard troops are issued M4 rifles and live ammunition in front of the US Capitol on Sunday.
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A total of 12 National Guard troops were pulled off the inauguration security mission, the Pentagon said Tuesday, confirming reporting from the Associated Press.
Two Guard members were found to have suspected ties to far-right militia groups, Army and intelligence officials told the AP.
The military and the FBI are vetting troops deployed to the nation’s capital.
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A dozen National Guard members have been pulled off the security mission for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the Pentagon revealed Tuesday, confirming earlier reporting from the Associated Press.
At least two members were found to have suspected ties to far-right militias, the AP reported on Tuesday, citing an Army official and a senior US intelligence official. Without going into detail, the Pentagon said they were taken off the line for “inappropriate” texts and comments. Defense officials added that not all of the 12 removed from the security mission were pulled for questionable ties or extremist views.
“We work very closely with law enforcement, and if there is any identification or anything whatsoever that needs to be looked into, out of an abundance of caution, we automatically pull those personnel off the line and make sure they’re not part of the mission set and, in certain cases, we make sure to get them sent home,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson explained at a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
The FBI, working with the Department of Defense, is vetting National Guard members tasked with securing the inauguration.
Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said Monday that “while we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital.”
Commenting on the screening efforts, Gen. Hokanson told the AP on Monday 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.”
There are more than 21,500 National Guard troops deployed to Washington, DC, in support of the inauguration on Wednesday, the National Guard Bureau said in a statement on Monday. As many as 25,000 National Guard troops have been authorized to support ongoing security activities.
The heightened security follows an assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on January 6 while Congress was certifying the result of the presidential election. Several officials have characterized it as an act of domestic terrorism.
Among the people who stormed the Capitol earlier this month were several veterans from the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps, as well as current service members. One man who was arrested in connection with the riot is a member of the Virginia National Guard.
“These people are not representative of our country’s military,” Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The New York Times on Monday. He added that most current and former military members “continue to serve honorably and uphold their oath to protect and defend the US Constitution.”
In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, the military has taken a closer look at extremism in its ranks.
The Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General announced last Thursday that it was launching an investigation into the military’s efforts to eliminate “active advocacy and active participation related to supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes by active duty military personnel.”
The National Guard Bureau chief stressed Tuesday that extremism will not be tolerated among Guard personnel.
Update: This post has been updated to include additional information from a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
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