US defence officials say they are worried about an insider attack from serving soldiers who will be guarding president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Such fears have prompted the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops streaming into Washington from across the country to secure the event, says the Associated Press.
This underlines fears that some of the very people assigned to protect the city over the next few days could present a threat to the incoming president and other VIPs.
The Secret Service is in charge of event security, but a wide variety of military and law enforcement departments are also involved.
The major security concerns are attacks by armed groups and planted explosives.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP on Sunday that he has warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks. So far, he and other leaders say they have seen no evidence of any threats.
In a situation like this, FBI vetting would involve running names through bureau databases and watchlists to see if anyone is red-flagged. Reasons for that could include involvement in prior investigations or terrorism-related concerns, said a former FBI national security supervisor.
The threats against Biden’s inauguration have been fuelled by supporters of President Donald Trump, far-right militants, white supremacists and other radical groups.
Many believe Trump’s accusations that the election was rigged, a claim that has been refuted by the courts, the Department of Justice and Republican officials in key battleground states.
The insurrection at the Capitol began after Trump made incendiary remarks at the Jan 6 rally. According to McCarthy, service members from across the military were at that rally, but it’s not clear how many or who may have participated in the storming of the Capitol.
So far only a couple of current active-duty National Guard members have been arrested in connection with the Capitol assault, which left five people dead.
The insider threat was just one of the security concerns voiced by officials on Sunday, as dozens of military, National Guard, and law enforcement commanders went through a security rehearsal.
McCarthy said, “The key goal, is for America’s transfer of power to happen without incident.
“We want to send the message to everyone in the US and the rest of the world that we can do this safely and peacefully.”