White House Security Advisers
Want Pennsylvania Ave. Closed

By Pirrre Thomas and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post

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