Twelve National Guard troops deployed to Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration were flagged during background checks and have been sent home, Defense Department officials confirmed Tuesday, offering scant details as to what raised suspicions about them.
Two of those were flagged for “inappropriate comments or texts,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the Nation Guard Bureau, told reporters, including one reported within their own chain of command. Hokanson’s comments refute a Tuesday story from the Associated Press that all 12 troops removed from the Capitol had right-wing militia ties.
“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 ― and in certain cases, we make sure that they get sent home,” Hokanson said.
The FBI has been working to vet more than 25,000 National Guard troops who’ve been mobilized to Washington, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters, but he could not say how many background checks had been completed as of Tuesday.
The plan has been to remove first and ask questions later, Hoffman said.
Neither Hoffman nor Hokanson responded to requests for details on what would flag a guardsman deployed for Capitol security, whether that was specific ties to extremism, documented threats against Capitol or inauguration security or political speech against the Biden or supporting outgoing President Donald Trump.
There’s no “handbook” for what pops a flag, Hoffman said, but troops are being pulled from duty, sent home and then investigated at the criminal or command level, according to the severity of the findings.
While not all 25,000 troops have been freshly vetted for this deployment, the FBI has time to work on them. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, on Jan. 6, authorized National Guard mobilizations in Washington for 30 days, giving troops until at least Feb. 5 to provide security in case of any post-inauguration threats.
“Upon completion of the inauguration, we will continue to support federal law enforcement as requested, and our service members will return home as soon as conditions permit,” Hokanson said.
Drawdowns could be quick, he added, as it’s possible 25,000 troops won’t be considered necessary after Jan. 20.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.