White House Security Advisers
Want Pennsylvania Ave. Closed
By Pirrre Thomas and Hamil R. Harris
An advisory committee examining security at the White House has
recommended closing Pennsylvania Avenue after experts determined
that a truck bomb outside the gates could do enough damage to
injure people inside the residence, sources familiar with the
overview said yesterday.
The concern predated the April 19 Oklahoma City blast that
obliterated a large section of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal
Building. But the bomb's power underscored the threat to the
White House, sources said.
"The concern was for the increased capacity of a few individuals
to do harm." said one cource familiar with the report, which ahs
not been released. "The big problem was always Pennsylvania
Avenue. If the truck gets there, it's too late."
The committee recommendations to close Pennsylvania Avenue from
15th to 17th Streets NW is part of an overall review of security
at the White House, including the performance of the U.S. Secret
Service. In September, a plane crashed on the White House before
being wrestled to the ground by citizens. Then in December,
police fatally shot a homeless man allegedly brandishing a knife
on the sidewalk adjacent to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Under the advisory committee's proposal, the area in front of the
White House would become a pedestrian mall, which committee
officials recognized has the potential to significantly disrupt
traffic in Washington's downtown core. In addition, politicians
dislike the symbolism of restricting access to such a landmark.
Clinton said last month that he hoped officials would find a way
to secure the mansion without closing the street. "Millions of
Americans go by Pennsylvania Avenue every year and see the
WhiteHouse and the overwhelming number of htem are law-abiding,
good American citizens," he said in an interview on "60 Minutes."
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said Sunday that he owuld
oppose closing the avenue. "Keep it open," Gingrich said on "Meet
the Press." "I mean there are limited risks in a free society."
Thus, the recommendation places Ronald K. Noble, Treasury
Department undersecretary for enforcement, in a difficult
position. Noble's office declined to comment, and it was unclear
whether he would support the committee's recommendation.
"The president is awaiting the recommendation from the secretary
of the Treasury and will review it when it arrives." said White
House senior adviser George Stephanopoulos.
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park