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Twelve national guard members removed from Biden inauguration duties

With Washington DC on virtual lockdown ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the FBI has been vetting all 25,000 national guard members.

Twelve national guard members removed from Biden inauguration duties
STEPHANIE KEITH AFP

Washington has been on edge since 6 January when pro-Trump supporters assaulted the Capitol in a deadly insurrection. The US Secret Service tightened security installing barriers and blocking streets with checkpoints. After a fire broke out at a homeless camp the city center was put on lockdown on Monday.

In addition to other law enforcement, the US Secret Service called on 25,000 national guard members to help protect President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, two and a half times more than are normally present for an inauguration. With fears of an insider attack or other threat the Defense Department called on the unit commanders to be vigilant and the FBI has been working to vet all 25,000 members.

Twelve national guard members removed from their duties

Two of the individuals were flagged due to "inappropriate" comments and texts, Army General Daniel Hokanson told reporters at a press conference. Hokanson said one was identified through an anonymous tip and the other was identified by his chain of command after fellow members brought their comments to the attention of Guard officers. During the press conference neither Hokanson, nor Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman would provide details on the comments or texts made by the two Guard members.

The other 10 Guard members were removed for “for a number of different reasons,” including for matters that could potentially be flagged in criminal background checks that were found in the vetting process, Hokanson said. The General emphasized that this does not necessarily mean they have ties to extremists, but simply that they were "identified" and removed from service "out of an abundance of caution."

Not worried about extremism in the ranks

Hokanson expressed that he is not concerned that extremism is a large part of the organization “if you look at 25,000, we've had 12 identified and some of those they are just looking into, it may be unrelated to this,” he said. Jonathon Hoffman said of the vetting process “These are vetting efforts that identify any questionable behavior in the past, or any potential link to questionable behavior, not just related to extremism."

The specter of extremists in the rank and file were raised after the 6 January attack on the Capitol when it appeared that a number of the insurrectionists showed tactical training. Since then a number of arrests have been made including a dozen ex-military service members. Law enforcement departments are investigating whether members of their own ranks participated in the assault on the Capitol.