- - Thursday, October 16, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The White House is usually the halfway point on one of my bike routes from Virginia, so I know how the security is laid out on Pennsylvania Avenue directly in front of the president’s residence. There are always a minimum of three foot patrolmen a few feet from the sidewalk. Tourists take up the sidewalk and usually there are a few demonstrators.

When I saw the point of entry for the recent intrusion I could not believe it (“Accused White House intruder indicted,” Web, Sept. 30). This guy must have been lightning-quick and very athletic. I would not be able to scale such a fence without castrating myself, and I certainly could not do it before one of those patrolmen grabbed me. Those guards parade up and down continuously, observing in all directions. Sometimes you can strike up a conversation, but it is short because they know it is a distraction. There may be one or two bike patrolmen in the area, moving constantly in Lafayette Square.

When there is a planned demonstration, made up of professional demonstrators, there are usually more Secret Service cars than demonstrators. You can always tell the professional, paid-for demonstrations by the number of camera crews. If it fits the agenda of the news outlets, there seem to be more camera crews than demonstrators. In fact, it must be tough to get a camera shot of significance that excludes the news crews falling all over themselves.

What are we to make of this latest intruder incident? The reaction was immediately to install a stand-off barricade from the permanent fence. Maybe, though, it is time to just admit that the Secret Service messed up. The fence is effective but in this case the patrolmen were ineffective, incapable of doing what they should have done. It is a tough job being a cop; you sit or stand or loiter for long periods of time, and in a second the adrenalin spikes and you have to move like a rabbit. If I had to do a job like that, I would end up a big fat blob, and blobs don’t move very quickly.

What happened at the White House says more about the general physical condition of the Secret Service than any inadequacy in fixed, structural security design. I imagine the next step will be to install a moat, complete with North Carolina gators, to prevent future intrusions.

SAMUEL BURKEEN

Reston

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