(Citizen Free Press) — Twelve members of the Army National Guard have been removed from their duties at the Washington inauguration as part of the security investigation process. This was started, in part, to ensure that the soldiers tasked with securing Wednesday’s ceremony in the capital have no ties to extremist groups, the head of the National Guard Bureau said Tuesday.
Two of the people were singled out for “inappropriate” comments and text messages, Army General Daniel Hokanson told reporters after a defense official told CNN on Tuesday that they were removed for possible links to extremists.
The other 10 members of the Guard were removed for questionable behavior found in the investigation process, Hokanson said, emphasizing that this does not necessarily mean they have ties to extremists, but were simply “identified” and removed from service “in abundance of caution ».
“I am not concerned because among a large part of our organization, if you look at 25,000, we have identified 12 and some of those are only investigating them, they may not be related to this. But we want to make sure as a precaution, as I said before, we do the right thing until that is clarified, “he told reporters.
The news comes as there are now approximately 25,000 National Guard troops on the ground in Washington, according to senior spokesman Aaron Thacker.
The nation’s capital is nervous ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. While much of Washington has been shut down following the deadly riot at the US Capitol on January 6, defense officials have tried to assure the public that troops sent to protect the inauguration are being fully investigated.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathon Hoffman reiterated that the investigation process is underway. “What the partner organizations have found, but much of the information, as the general mentioned, is not related to the events that take place on Capitol Hill or to the concerns of many people about extremism. These are research efforts that identify any questionable behavior in the past, or any potential link to questionable behavior, not just related to extremism, “he said.
Earlier Tuesday, a defense official confirmed to CNN that two members of the Army National Guard were removed from their inauguration duties as part of the security investigation process.
When asked to comment on the decision, the National Guard responded, “Due to operational security, we did not discuss the process or the outcome of the investigation process for military members supporting the inauguration” and referred future questions to the Secret Service.
The Associated Press was the first to report that the two guards had been removed.
Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said Monday that “there is no intelligence information indicating an insider threat” to the inauguration.
Miller’s statement came hours after the Washington National Guard chief said the FBI is investigating the soldiers involved in securing the Capitol to prevent insider threats.
“As is normal for military support of large security events, the Department will screen members of the National Guard in Washington. While we do not have intelligence information indicating an internal threat, we will leave no stone unturned to secure the capital, “Miller wrote.
“This type of investigation is often carried out by law enforcement agencies for major security events. However, in this case, the scope of military involvement is unique, “he said.
Miller also thanked the FBI for its help in vetting members of the National Guard.
Long-standing concerns about extremism within the military
Efforts to find and eliminate extremism within the military ranks, particularly among those who defend white supremacist beliefs, began long before this month’s riots on Capitol Hill, but have grown in urgency in recent days.
Enhanced detection measures come as tens of thousands of National Guard members patrol the streets of the US capital ahead of Inauguration Day.
The 25,000 members of the National Guard currently in the capital is the maximum number authorized by the Pentagon for security around the inauguration.
The numbers have been increasing in recent days as soldiers arrived from other parts of the country.
“What happens is that they are evaluated before they leave their state and what is an accreditation process, so they are evaluated and evaluated repeatedly until they are put on the street,” Major General William Walker told “Good Morning America »from ABC on Monday.
Walker did not say the evaluation included specific questions about members’ beliefs around the legitimacy of the election, but they are conducting an enhanced background check.
No, it’s about the background. So a regular background check is enhanced with more checks, more details and is layered so that the FBI is a part of it, the Secret Service is a part of it and once they are sure that there is no threat. internal, then that soldier, guard or aviator receives a credential, “he said.
Walker emphasized that members of the National Guard are screened upon entering service and this is adding another layer.
The Washington National Guard is also providing additional training to service members as they arrive in the capital that if they see or hear something that is inappropriate, they should report it to their chain of command, an Army spokesman said in a statement. written to CNN last week.
“There is no room for extremism in the military and we will investigate each report individually and take appropriate action,” the statement said.
“The Army is committed to working closely with the FBI in identifying the individuals who participated in the violent attack on the Capitol to determine if the individuals have any connection to the Army,” the statement added, noting any type of activity that “Involves violence, civil disobedience, or breach of the peace” may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state and federal law.
Current Department of Defense policy requires that all service members be trained annually under a program that requires department personnel to report “any information about known or suspected extremist behavior that could be a threat to the department or the United States.” the statement said.
“We don’t know the size and scale of the problem,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told CNN on Monday. “We are working with federal law enforcement to assess our people, obviously those who support this particular operation. But I would do it in most cases.
“We take extremist threats very seriously. And we are investigating all of our soldiers. We will continue to look at the entire military as a whole and how we can make sure these threats are not in our formation. And if they are, we will find them and get rid of them, “he added.
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