- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001

President Bush, who ran on a Republican promise to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue, has not necessarily changed his mind despite yesterday's shooting incident, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
Supporters of the movement to reopen the avenue argue that the shooting on a sidewalk outside the south lawn of the White House shouldn't change anything.
Robert Pickett, a 47-year-old onetime mental patient from Evansville, Ind., who fired a handgun outside the White House gates yesterday, was shot in the leg at 11:30 a.m. by a Secret Service agent.
Mr. Fleischer, speaking at a press briefing at the White House after the shooting, said the president has not made a final decision about reopening the road. He said:
"On the question of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president has spoken with the Secret Service, the president has spoken with [D.C.] Mayor [Anthony A.] Williams. He's going to continue to speak with relevant parties."
Former President Bill Clinton ordered Pennsylvania Avenue, along the north side of the White House, and Executive Avenue, along the south side, closed to cars and trucks after the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing much to the chagrin of many congressmen, city leaders, residents and businessmen.
Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Maryland Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform District of Columbia subcommittee, will hold hearings in early March on the shooting.
"With the incident today, the congresswoman believes it's necessary to look at the issue of security and the status of Pennsylvania Avenue," Jonathan Dean, the spokesman, said.
Mrs. Morella has historically been in favor of reopening the street, and hearings on the issue were in the works, Mr. Dean said, and the incident "brings the issue of security at the White House to the forefront."
The District's mayor and other local officials insist the incident, which occurred several hundred yards from the avenue, should not deter momentum to reopen the two streets and relieve downtown congestion.
"At this time, there is no reason to view today's incident and the reopening of Pennsylvania Avenue as connected," Mr. Williams said.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting congressional representative and a strong proponent of reopening Pennsylvania Avenue, said the shooting "points up the failure of the Secret Service-sponsored Pennsylvania Avenue blockade," which she describes as a 19th-century approach to reducing security threats.
"By closing down one part of town, they simply expose all others to equal or higher levels of vulnerability," Mrs. Norton said, noting that the E Street entrance to the White House and the Capitol, for example, may be more vulnerable to attack.
Mrs. Norton said she hopes this latest incident will encourage Mr. Bush to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue and oppose any further efforts to wall off the White House and limit citizens' access.
"We are in the process of slowly closing down this society, yard by yard, so that people will barely notice that we are the closed society we said we would never become," Mrs. Norton said in an interview. "Each step produces a move that does not take into account its sequential effects."
Rep. Bob Clement, Tennessee Democrat, was at the White House when the shooting happened and said in an interview with CNN that everyone was told to stay put during the incident.
Mr. Clement said the latest incident illustrates the necessary risks of living in an open society.
A recently retired Secret Service official who worked in the uniformed division at the White House said security around the executive mansion will probably get tighter now.
"There will definitely be an after-action report and an investigation and a look at it to determine if there is a need to expand the perimeter a little bit out further," said the officer, who worked for more than 20 years with the agency.
"If the Secret Service had its way, it would like to have a greater perimeter than it is now," he said. "But they have to balance that with living in a free and democratic society."

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