Another Defense Department official said that law enforcement agencies were planning for any number of possible events, some of them horrific. Worst-case scenarios include snipers targeting inauguration dignitaries, “suicide-type aircraft” entering Washington’s restricted airspace, and even remote-powered drones attacking the crowd. The officials said they were particularly worried about multiple active-shooter situations flaring up simultaneously.
Defense Department officials have not made a final decision on whether National Guard troops will be armed; but even if they are initially unarmed, the troops will not be far away from their weaponry, the officials said. Troops will be equipped with at least defensive riot gear, like helmets.
“We want our individuals to have the right to self-defense,” General Hokanson said during a news briefing. “If senior leadership determines that that’s the right posture to be in, then that is something we will do.” All of the troops coming to Washington, he said, are bringing their guns with them.
Despite the increasing alarm among federal ranks, Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee said he was determined to make an outdoor appearance at the event to call on a divided nation to come together at a time of political and public-health crisis. The inauguration’s theme is “America United.”
Mr. Biden also plans to visit Arlington National Cemetery with three living presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who represent both parties — adding another challenge for federal law enforcement authorities.
“I‘m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” Mr. Biden said Monday, adding that he would be briefed on the security precautions in development.
Concerns are not limited to Jan. 20.
Fliers circulated in encrypted WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram groups over the weekend calling for an “armed march on Capitol Hill and all state capitols” at noon Jan. 17. The fliers, which include the instruction to “come armed at your personal discretion,” also appeared on the chat sites Gab and Parler that have attracted far-right voices. Various local militia groups in states from Pennsylvania to Florida to Michigan have posted calls on those platforms for their members to come out in force.