The Pentagon is marching where it feared to go: armed troops in the streets

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Another area of ​​concern is foreign interference which can be masked by domestic unrest. If protesters can’t get close to the inaugural events, Department of Homeland Security officials fear turning to cyber-meddling, in an attempt to withhold Mr. Biden’s first words from the nation and the world . There are similar concerns about infrastructure attacks, perhaps far from the inaugural events, which would convey a sense of chaos, at a time when Mr Biden is calling for restoring order.

The Secretary of the Army’s decision Tuesday night to arm some of the National Guard troops deployed in Washington came after a meeting with President Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. Ms Pelosi, according to congressional staff members, demanded that the Pentagon adopt a more muscular and proactive posture at the inauguration than it did last week, when Defense Department officials waited for Trump loyalists pass Capitol before deploying additional troops. And even then, the troops that showed up were not carrying deadly weapons.

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This contrasts sharply with the National Guard’s response in the spring to the Black Lives Matter protests. Many states called in National Guard troops, and in Washington, two military helicopters, in a show of force, terrified protesters in Chinatown, producing winds similar to a tropical storm.

The vast majority of military forces in Washington will be the National Guard. But a small number of elite commandos from Joint Special Operations Command, a secret command based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be on hand, as they are for each inauguration, to help counter any terrorist attack or other national emergency. , especially anything involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

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Pentagon officials express deep concern over the protests planned for the inauguration. Some 16 groups – some of them saying they will be armed and most made up of extremist supporters of Mr. Trump – have registered to stage protests in Washington, officials said.

A Department of Defense official said law enforcement predicted a series of outcomes, including a worst-case scenario in which people with guns attempted to attack dignitaries, “suicide-type planes” attempt to fly in the Capitol’s restricted airspace and even remotely. drones that could be used to attack crowds.

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A second Pentagon official has expressed concern about the repeat of the homemade bombs planted in Washington last week. The official said law enforcement was also concerned that some protesters threatened to show up at lawmakers’ homes or target their families.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contribution to reports.

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