A dozen members of the National Guard have been removed from inauguration security as the FBI vets the 25,000 guardsmen assigned to the Wednesday mission. The vetting process was initiated in part to make sure guardsmen at the ceremony are not linked to extremist groups.
According to Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, two members were dismissed from duty at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration because of inappropriate texts and comments. The two guardsmen made comments specifically about the inauguration, The Associated Press reported.
He said the other 10 were removed for questionable behavior not necessarily related to extremism or the inaugural event “out of an abundance of caution.”
But two U.S. officials told the AP that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or posted extremist views online. The two officials spoke anonymously and were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. All 12 Guardsmen have been sent back to their home states pending an investigation.
“We’re not even asking what the flag was, we’re just removing them,” said chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.
Two members were reported by chain of command and an anonymous tip, while the other 10 members were flagged through the FBI’s vetting process.
“If there’s 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 that they’re not part of the mission set,” said Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, at a Pentagon news conference. “And in certain cases we make sure that we get them sent home.”
Ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration, 25,000 troops are on the ground in the nation’s capital.
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said Monday that there is “no intelligence indicating an insider threat” to the ceremony.
The FBI vetting process is intended to prevent insider threats just two weeks after a pro-Trump mob raided the United States Capitol building on Jan. 6. Several members of law enforcement on duty during the riot are under investigation for their own roles in the violence. The FBI has warned that right-wing extremists may pose as Guard members at the inauguration.
Information about which state units the Guardsmen belonged to has not been made available.
“Due to operational security, we do not discuss the process nor the outcome of the vetting process for military members supporting the inauguration,” the National Guard Bureau told the AP.