On Friday, a man “scaled the fence” at the White House, ran across the lawn and into the executive mansion before being stopped. Now the Secret Service is talking about the possibility of having airport type screening for anyone and everyone who walks near the White House on the closed off section of Pennsylvania Avenue. Yet another reactionary plan based on a problem that made itself known in a very public way.
Hold on a moment. A person going over the fence is not that uncommon at the White House. During the Clinton administration, one guy fired an automatic weapon toward the White House until two bystanders rushed him from behind and brought him down. That was a much more serious security threat than those that happened late last week. A small aircraft was also crashed into the side of the White House when Clinton was president, something that might have given the terrorists the idea of the 9-11, 2001 attacks.
There is an alternative, in fact several, to the idea of screening people on a public street. One is this: LOCK THE FRONT DOOR to the White House. It might be convenient for the guards and others who have to come and go, but should the door be left unlocked during the night time hours? Can other ways be arranged for the Secret Service and others to come and go? Why wouldn’t the guard at the front door be in charge of unlocking it? (I haven’t spoken to the SS about this matter, but it is safe to assume that the door was unlocked last Friday, since the intruder got inside.)
Another method would be to make the fence higher and not as easy to get over, embedding sharp materials in the top of the fence. (The hands might not get cut, but other parts of the body likely would be damaged.) Still another would be to redesign Pennsylvania Avenue so that visitors are farther back from the Mansion. Tear up the street and make it curve outward, away from the grounds.
Some places that don’t allow people inside who are not checked first have the bars on the fence extending out over the top, with sharp points downward. It is rather ugly, but not nearly so intrusive as making everyone go through a metal detector type arrangement. If the bars are too close together, there is virtually no way for someone to get over them, unless they have a very large ladder, which would surely be noticed on an approach to the White House grounds.
If public screening were put in place, what about rainy or snowy days? Some sort of security shack would have to be built, which would then be declared an “eyesore”, which would then cause an appeal to Congress to be made for 20 to 50 million dollars, or a lot more, to build something “appropriate” for the nation’s capital. It never ends, in other words. In a few years, visitors who just want to walk past the White House could be forced into the kind of underground dungeon that was built to “accommodate” visitors to the US Capitol building.
Putting airport screening on a public street is a drastic step. Eventually, all of Washington, DC, might be closed off for free public access. That is where the increasing “security zone” concept is leading.