Federal officials say about a dozen members of the National Guard have been pulled from inauguration security duties as a precaution. Ten were removed after criminal background checks raised questions. Two others were removed because of "inappropriate comments." Officials declined to say whether those comments were tied to extremist groups or beliefs.
The FBI has been vetting the thousands of troops assigned to the District to limit the risk of an insider threat and is expected to complete that process before Wednesday. The move comes as prosecutors continue to file charges and investigate U.S. Capitol rioters who have served in the military.
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The News4 I-Team obtained video shot by freelance photographer Robyn Stevens Brody Jan. 6 showing a line of men walking up the steps of the Capitol wearing military-style combat gear. Each is holding onto the person in front of them in what appears to be a military formation.
Prosecutors have said they are investigating several people with military and/or law enforcement ties in connection with the insurrection at the Capitol. They have already charged a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Texas and a retired Marine from New York. The woman shot and killed by U.S. Capitol Police was an Air Force veteran, and the two Virginia police officers facing charges are both former members of the military. One still serves in the Virginia National Guard. Efforts to reach those charged and their attorneys have gone unanswered.
"We need a thorough investigation to determine how these individuals were involved, how they got into these positions in the first place," said U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "We should be doing a lot better job of screening individuals who are going to have these really important responsibilities of defending the public."
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Combat veteran and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) has called for an investigation and greater accountability regarding service members and military retirees who "betrayed the constitution" during the "coup attempt."
In a letter to the acting Secretary of Defense, she requested “appropriate action to hold individuals accountable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” noting that “upholding good order and discipline demands that the U.S. Armed Forces root out extremists that infiltrate the military and threaten our national security.”
Two dozen members of Congress also wrote a letter to House leadership outlining serious concerns and calling for the creation of a commission to investigate domestic terrorism. It specifically questions the ways in which the military detects extremism among service members and how that should be improved
Department of Defense spokesman Michael Howard told the News4 I-Team "there is absolutely no tolerance for extremists within the military," saying every recruit undergoes a full background investigation, which can include social media checks. They're also subject to continuous evaluation and are enrolled in an Insider Threat program.
Howard added that any extremist behaviors or tendencies are addressed immediately and that those individuals' activities are referred to the appropriate authorities.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.