- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

It is certainly understandable that few tourists have dared to see the unique sights of the District of Columbia at DEFCON-1. Yet, the few visitors who do come to the Capitol will soon observe something strange: That the dome, indeed, the entire Capitol complex, has been almost completely obscured by fine-layered fencing and newly-dropped concrete barriers.

Most of the entranceways to the Capitol have been blocked off by circular concrete barricades, which are four to five deep in some places. Jersey barriers have been set up along many of the driveways around the building, and additional concrete barriers have been placed virtually cheek-to-cheek along the outer rim of the east Capitol lawn. Behind those barriers runs an extensive system of fencing throughout the entire complex.

These security measures are so extensive that tourists are no longer finding their way through to a Capitol Kodak moments; joggers are discovering that there is practically no way out once they have gone into the complex, and even squirrels are beginning to swap maps of the area.

The Capitol has a special symbolic value in the annals of the nation. For over 200 years, it has been the site of freedom's history in the making. Within its whitewashed walls, walked and debated the living pillars of the republic. There Henry Clay argued for compromise between his colleagues Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun before Chief Justice Roger Taney handed down a dreadful decision that set in motion the Civil War. The laws that reconstructed the nation were written there, as was legislation that turned the nation into the arsenal of democracy decades later. Through years of terror and decades of peace, it has stood as a testimony to our freedoms. Despite this present crisis, it should not become a bunker.

Beyond national symbolism is the simple matter of safety for everyone. On Sept. 11, the entire Capitol complex was evacuated. One of the reasons that this movement was even somewhat orderly was that there were no choke points to hinder it. However, with the new security set-up, hundreds of individuals will be funneled through a few narrow spaces on their way to safety.

Even though additional attacks at or around the Capitol are almost certain, a balance between protection and paranoia must be found. The barricaded Capitol complex should not become another permanent Pennsylvania Avenue.

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