Foreign interference that can be masked as domestic unrest is another concern. If the protesters can't get close to the inaugural events, Department of Homeland Security officials fear they will turn to cyber interference, trying to obscure Mr. Biden's first words against the nation and the world. There are similar concerns about infrastructure attacks, perhaps far from the inaugural events, that would convey a sense of chaos at a time when Mr Biden is calling for order to be restored.
Tuesday night's decision by the Secretary of the Army to arm some of the National Guard troops deployed to Washington came after a meeting with California Democrat speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ms. Pelosi demanded, according to Congressional staff, that the Pentagon take a more muscular and proactive stance on the inauguration than last week, when Defense Department officials waited for Trump loyalists to overtake the Capitol before deploying additional troops. And even then, the troops that showed up weren't carrying deadly weapons.
This is in stark contrast to the response of the National Guard during the spring during the Black Lives Matter protests. Many states called for National Guard troops, and in Washington, two military helicopters in a show of force made terrified protesters in Chinatown, producing winds comparable to a tropical storm.
The vast majority of Washington's armed forces will be the National Guard. Only a small number of elite commandos from the Joint Special Operations Command, a secret command in Fort Bragg, NC, will be on hand, as they are at every inauguration, to assist in dealing with any terrorist attack or other national emergency. , especially nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Pentagon officials express deep concern at the protests scheduled for the inauguration. About 16 groups – some of them saying they will be armed and most of them made up of tough supporters of Mr. Trump – have signed up to hold protests in Washington, officials said.
A Defense Department official said law enforcement agencies are planning a series of results, including a worse scenario in which people with firearms try to attack dignitaries, "suicide-like aircraft". try to fly in the restricted airspace of the Capitol and even be remotely controlled. drones that can be used to attack the crowd.
A second Pentagon official expressed concern about a repeat of the pipe bombs placed in Washington last week. The official also said law enforcement agencies were concerned that some protesters had threatened to appear at lawmakers' homes or target their families.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.