Is The White House Safe? The Number Of Fence Jumpers Has Dramatically Increased In Recent Months
The White House should — in theory — be the most impenetrable building in the country. When you think about the level of protection dedicated to 1600 Pennsylvania, surface-to-air missiles, sophisticated radar technology, and even invisible force fields all come to mind. But yet another person was arrested Sunday night after climbing over a fence surrounding the building, which begs the question: is the White House safe?
The person, whose identity and gender wasn't announced, scaled the south side fence at around 10:25 p.m. local time while carrying a suspicious package, Brian Leary with the U.S. Secret Service told CNN. A source told the cable outlet the package was found to be harmless, but the number of White House breaches has dramatically increased in recent months and has prompted mass criticism over the protection detail surrounding the leader of the free world.
White House breaches have sometimes been honest mistakes. Last week, security agents discovered a 4-year-old toddler had climbed under a temporary barrier. A brief lockdown took place in January after a man accidentally landed a mini-drone on the White House grounds. But the flawed security system has also opened the government building to viable threats. In September, 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez jumped the fence and actually made it into the first floor of the building while wielding a knife, a Washington Post report revealed.
Soon after the breach debacle involving Gonzalez, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson told a House committee there had been 16 incidents of "fence jumping" in the past five years, with six having already occurred that year. She vowed to stiffen security measures in response to the increasing threat.
It's clear that our security plan was not executed properly. I take full responsibility. What happened is unacceptable and it will never happen again.
But clearly, the White House is still an easy mark, and other government buildings in Washington have also proven to be easy targets. Just last week, a Florida man landed a small helicopter on the U.S. Capitol's west lawn. Postal worker Douglas Mark Hughes, 61, was charged with operating an unregistered aircraft and violating national defense airspace. He could face up to four years in prison.
The National Park Service and Secret Service recently announced plans to install steel spikes on top of the White House fence aimed at deterring people from climbing over, but the logistics have yet to be ironed out.
The interim solution enhances security without affecting the visitor's experience. A timeline for installation is not yet available, but we are working expeditiously on this improvement.
The Department of Homeland Security's 2015 budget is $61 billion. With that much money set aside to respond to terrorist attacks, man-created accidents, and natural disasters, you'd think the government could use more dollars toward other advanced security measures than metal spikes on sticks. While there are undoubtedly more levels of protection hidden behind the White House's fence, the next jumper could do more than just embarrass the Secret Service. All it takes is one failure. Let's not see the White House go down.
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