White House secure as it's going to get
Moat, barbed wire, attack dogs aren't considered viable
By Paul Bedard
The Secret Service has run out of "realistic" options to
protect presidents from loners and maniacs on a death wish,
according to administration officials and several former agents.
"There is probably nothing that can be done to stop these loners
without putting [the president] in a totally protected
environment and one he can't work in. There is no way to stop
them" said former Secret Service agent Jack Smith, now a
Baltimore security consultant.
"You could dig a moat around the White House and fill it with
water and fill it with alligators and have only one bridge.
That's the only way to protect" the president and White House,
according to Tom Roemer, a Chicago security consultant.
"If someone is willing to study all the elements and put
himself in the position to do harm ... you can't stop that" Mr.
While it is not clear what motivated Leland William Modjeski
to scale the South lawn gate at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, his intrusion
came just minutes after Mr. Clinton's motorcade arrived at the
nearby southwest gate.
Mr. Modjeski was shot by a Secret Service agent after jumping
down on the White House grounds and triggering the electronic
sensors ringing the building.
His attack showed that closing off Pennsylvania Avenue in front
of the White House -- and other security enhancements of the past
week that remain classified -- can't stop an intruder arriving on
The Secret Service and other federal law enforcement agencies
have several ideas on how to beef up security, but there are
problems with all of them.
Among the alternatives:
Install razor wire or barbed wire on top of the black iron
fence ringing the White House. That won't fly, however, because
it would make the White House look like a federal penitentiary,
Expand the number of uniformed Secret Service agents around the
gate. That, however, is viewed as too costly.
Expand the perimeter of the gate. Mr. Smith said that would
limit the public's view of the "people's house."
Dig a deep moat trench-style around the complex. Security
specialists, however, said that would require that current
seismic and motion detectors be moved -- an expensive process.
Build an electrified fence inside the gate. But, said Mr.
Roemer, the liability is too high a price to pay.
Place ferocious dogs on the grounds to roam for intruders.
"What if a young guy feeling his oats jumps the fence! You have
to introduce human element sometime to decide if there is a real
threat. Dogs and [electric] fences don't do that" Mr. Smith said.
"I don't think there's too much more that can be done" said Mr.
Koemer. "Nothing's wrong except these crazies keep trying to get
Even the Treasury Department security review that prompted Mr.
Clinton to close Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th
streets noted that fence jumpers can't be stopped.
"It is important to note that fence jumpers rarely make it far
once they are on the White House grounds, although there have
been some notable exceptions" said the report. For example, the
report noted that Gerard Gainous strolled up to President Ford's
daughter in 1975 and that Gustav Leijohhufved walked up to the
West Wing in 1991.
Even though the Tuesday attack came after the Secret Service
and FBI had instituted the most severe security arrangements ever
at the White House, spokesman Michael McCurry and the president
had nothing but praise from the Secret Service.
"The systems here to protect the president when there is an
intrusion of this nature worked and worked rather well,
obviously," Mr. McCurry said.
Law enforcement officials said that security will be unusually
tight for a while as a result of Mr. Modjeski's intrusion. They
said that more guards and even horse patrols will be stationed
around the White House, but only temporarily, or until the
"threat" is reduced.
Mr. Koemer said the temporary increase in security is aimed at
stumping "copycat" attackers. "There will be a heightened sense
of awareness because people want to do a copycat kind of
thing....It's kind of a cat-and-mouse game," he said.
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
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