On Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott slammed the Pentagon and FBI’s joint vetting of tens of thousands of U.S. troops supporting President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, to determine the risk of an insider attack.
In response to a report about the vetting process, Abbott tweeted, “This is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard. No one should ever question the loyalty or professionalism of the Texas National Guard. @TexasGuard I authorized more than 1,000 to go to DC. I’ll never do it again if they are disrespected like this.”
The FBI is working with the Pentagon to complete the vetting process. On Monday, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said “the Department will vet National Guardsmen who are in Washington, D.C.,” adding, “we appreciate the support of the FBI in assisting with this task.”
According to the Associated Press, the FBI vetting process involves reviewing the names of individuals attached to the National Guard response and cross-checking those names with databases and watchlists the agency keeps to identify any red flags. Former FBI national security supervisor David Gomez said such red flags may include prior investigations or terrorism-related concerns.
The vetting process comes as the military is investigating whether active duty and reserve duty troops were present on Jan. 6, when demonstrators stormed the U.S. Capitol and forced the lawmakers to stop a joint session of Congress to count electoral college votes for Biden.
Miller said vetting is a standard procedure for large security events, such as the inauguration. The number of troops assigned to various missions in the National Capital Region (NCR) has rapidly expanded in the last week. Originally, about 15,000 National Guard troops were authorized to provide various security and logistical support capabilities for the inauguration. That number expanded to 21,000 Guard troops on Thursday and then to 25,000 on Friday. On Monday, an additional 2,750 active-duty troops were also attached to support the inauguration.
“While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital,” Miller said Monday.
The nearly 28,000 U.S. troops deploying in DC is at least two and a half times the number of troops activated for previous inaugurations, and many of the National Guard troops will be armed.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported two National Guard troops were removed from security missions associated with Biden’s inauguration, over ties to “fringe right group militias.” Defense officials would not say which groups the Guard troops were associated with, or the nature of their ties to the groups, and said no plot against Biden was found. The AP reported the U.S. Secret Service provided no official comment confirming the removal of any Guard troops from the inauguration security mission.