Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don't Fence Me In, Too Much


















As Robert Frost said, good fences make good neighbors.

Someone who definitely likes good fences is former Secret Service Director Ralph Basham. He told CNN that the White House needs a bigger and badder one if it wants to stop fence jumpers:
Former Secret Service director Ralph Basham said the fence around the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue is particularly vulnerable.

"That is the problem," said Basham, founder of Command Consulting Group, a security firm. "It took this individual less than 30 seconds" to scale the fence.

Basham said he is not necessarily recommending a higher fence, suggesting instead an added tilt at the top, or non-lethal shock wire to increase security.

"I don't think anyone in this country wants to see a White House that's got concrete walls, and Concertina wire across the top, and guard towers on the corners. That is unacceptable. And that's the challenge that the Secret Service has," he said.

Any changes to the fence would require buy-in from several different groups, such as the White House Historical Association and the National Capital Planning Commission, said Basham.

"All of these entities have to be satisfied when you're dealing with this simple sort of question: Should we not enhance this type of fence and make it more secure?" he said.

In case anyone takes that suggestion of an electrified fence seriously, please add to the list of parties who need to buy-in (1) the President, (2) the Congress, and (3) every personal injury lawyer in America. I assume that no one is taking it seriously, if only due to the impracticality.

Such fences usually need to be put up inside of an outer boundary fence, the electric wires need to be isolated and grounded, and the emanations they put out can interfere with a variety of devices that are probably in constant use around the White House. Not to mention that they can be defeated easily enough by an intruder with a little knowledge; the primary use for electrified fences is to contain cattle, and even the stupidest White House fence jumper is brighter than a cow, although maybe not by much. File that idea under Not Feasible.

On the other side of the issue is the public space / public architecture community, those people who, Frost would say, do not love a wall. They were well-represented by the WaPo's Art and Architecture critic, Phillip Kennicott, who came out swinging with a column that included this:

The loss of public space and the intrusion of the security apparatus into daily life are not merely inconveniences. Among the most cherished symbols of democracy is openness, including direct access to our leaders. Politicians, in a democracy, must understand that holding elected office means not only maintaining that direct connection to the people, but also incurring some inevitable measure of risk. If they do not wish to run the risk, they should not run for office.

It is not reasonable to ask a free people to continually submit to police control; doing so becomes ingrained, and when we freely submit to unreasonable searches, we lose the all-important, reflexive distrust of authority that helps keep us free. We must not allow the ever-increasing, ever-more-powerful security apparatus to train us in slavish behavior, or our deepest habits will conform to their darkest estimation of our worth.

Whoa! Is he saying that there is inherent risk is open public spaces and democratic systems? And that because our public office-holders wanted those jobs they must accept the unavoidable risk that comes with them? And that it is necessary for free people to distrust authority lest they internalize a condition of slavery? I say that's bold talk for an architect, and I agree with him one hundred percent.

So, how big a security problem are these fence jumpers? Not all that big, historically. So far as I can tell from the public literature, the last time there was a systematic review of White House security was during the Clinton administration, and it produced a report that documented a typical pace of 3 to 5 intruders and gatecrashers per year from the 1970s onward. All but a few of them have been innocuous.

What to do about those few fence jumpers who are dangerous? Since landmines are now off the table, why not go with ex-Director Basham's call for a better fence? Even Kennicott would agree that is the least intrusive option that is likely to be effective.

As it happens, the White House fence is currently being renovated, so this seems to be an ideal time to do a little redesigning:
The White House fence along Pennsylvania Avenue is being moved about 16 feet farther from the building while the original fence is being restored.

The restoration, which was supposed to be completed by the end of September, has taken longer than expected and is now likely to be finished in March [TSB note: if you couldn't tell, this is a government project], Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, National Park Service spokeswoman, said. In the meantime, chunks of the barrier that separate excited tourists from the president’s house are being moved back incrementally.
I had never before paid attention to the White House's perimeter fence, and now that I do, I can't believe what a crappy barrier it is.

A section of temporary fence (left) in front of the original

















The fence looks to be barely six feet high, and it's mounted atop a wide stone base that makes a nice step to stand on while you grab the top rail and pull yourself over. Even better, someone placed handy ledges and platforms just outside the fence to give an intruder more hand- and foot-holds.

That's the White House's first line of defense against intruders? That is incredibly weak. I don't think the Secret Service was paying attention when they approved that design.  

That stone base makes a handy seat for protestors, too




It's just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Penns. Ave fence to the house



























Seriously, the Secret Service ought to beef up that fence. Increase the height of the pickets by at least another foot, remount the pickets to the outer edge of that stone base in order to make it useless as a step (or bevel or round off the base to accomplish the same thing), and maybe cover the lower portion of the fence with a little transparent material to make it harder to climb while not visually detracting from the architectural openness stuff that Mr. Kennicott is going on about.

A mundane improvement, I suppose, but maybe that's all it would take to slow down the next nut for a critical few seconds while the legions of White House security forces react.

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post TSB!

James said...

Seen very near 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/da/Battering_ram.jpg/220px-Battering_ram.jpg

TSB said...

That's Old School! Siege towers, trebuchets, gabions, sappering, undermining, flaming oil, these are a few of my favorite things.

Anonymous said...

TSB: This is confirmation of 'propaganda/bs level of that which we call the cBSnbccnnfoxmsnbcabcwaponytlat
bglobstimes/' The rebel tribe takes over the Yemen government where we have been 'fighting AlQaeda' with no boots on the ground.. just proxies since forever' and not one person in a zillion in the USSA knows about it, much less knows what it means. Jan Psaki says... 'we'll let you know when we figure it out'..

This is why I follow TSB and JRC and
DIPLOP... because if you talk to people outside your door or at the store none have any idea besides lies in terms of what is going on. Of course we have no policy in Yemen. Just a narrative! and today's happenings don't fit it so... We'll get back to ya! gwb

Anonymous said...

Great reporting from @HannahAllam on DC-based nonprofit that tried to help U.S build moderate fighting force in Syria
TSB: I wonder if this story about 'Mr Dithers' was in Hillary's 'Hard Choices'?? Amb. Ford's memoirs will be worth reading someday! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: The Khorasans: As Fake As the Kardashians-George Washington Blog:
(it's really Al-Nusra Front but we needed something that sounded scarier
to get the poll numbers up.) gwb
OMG!There goes another cruise missile!

Anonymous said...

TSB: A Look Inside The Secret Deal With Saudi Arabia That Unleashed The Syrian Bombing: http://bit.ly/1peyJEe

On 9/11 Kerry agreed to jazz up the training of anti-Assad rebels in return for Saudi backing of the Syrian bombing. So 'Assad must go' so SA and Qatar get that pipeline thru Syria to thwart Putin! So the Pope was right? WWIII has begun? gwb

James said...

GWB: You have to remember that Yemen is one of our success stories.

TSB: It of course goes without saying that the flaming oil is poly-unsaturated.

Anonymous said...

TSB:Anderson Cooper finally reporting on the seige/massacre at the former Camp Falluja of over 300 soldiers. So much for our coordination with Iraqi troops. I guess when you sell generalships to the highest bidder it causes some problems.. probably like Ambassador slots. Since the seige started 3-4 weeks ago I love the timely reporting! gwb (who is that reporter embedded with our 1700? US advisors?) Maybe CNN's Arwa Damon had a reason for going berserk at the US embassy? gwb

Anonymous said...

Thanks James! So the Houthi's storming the capital last weekend was the culmination of our success leading to a peaceful transition government. And the Houthi's have been armed and financed by Iran? (I'm just curious how they get all the ammo to defeat AQ in the north and then defeat government forces protecting the capital and 2 days later
we have a peace agreement the first time our new Amb meets the Yemen President. Aren't I missing a few details here??. gwb

James said...

GWB: Think of Yemen this way, while the Sunni government carried out it's war on AQ (along with the US destroying white toyota p/u's with drones) Iran was quietly financing the Houthis. Iran is slowly encircling the peninsula and putting pressure on Saudi Arabia, not to mention the Gulf States. Meanwhile up north the rather dire situation for Iran (proxy government in Iraq collapsing, loss of ground contact to Assad and Hezbollah and a fairly heavily armed Sunni enemy almost on their borders) has changed dramatically. In the last week they've acquired a rather nifty air force, navy, and intelligence collection abilities they could only dream about before now. Of course in the meantime according to many "it's all our fault".

TSB: Better start specifying #6 and #8 rebar instead of #3 and get a bulk deal on Portland. It looks like there is a good "Prospect" we'll need a lot of "Refuge" pretty soon.

Anonymous said...

TSB: LET'S HAVE A PARTY!! It's the 52nd
anniversary of the Revolution! gwb

http://www.yementimes.com/en/1819/news/4375/52nd-anniversary-of-the-September-26-Revolution.htm

And our new Ambassador has been welcomed and said US government is fully supportive of the new transitional government. It just goes to show you what can be accomplished when absolutely NOBODY wants to take the credit or even acknowledge that it happened! I probably need to brush up on Iranian religious customs before I go on vacation.

Anonymous said...

TSB: At our house we were always instructed not to discuss religion with holiday guests. I didn't have any opinions on religion back then but I don't recall any arguments breaking out
about anything. Just lots of laughs and 'fork advice'.gwb

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11121519/Ultra-Orthodox-Jews-cause-chaos-on-flight-to-Israel.html

Anonymous said...

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/26/travel/chicago-ohare-midway-flights-stopped/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

TSB: Who's the bigger threat: ISIL/ISIS/IS/AQ/KHORASAN or federal contractors with a grudge? gwb

Anonymous said...

Peter Salisbury @altoflacoblanco
Follow
Another surreal sight: Houthi checkpoint with big sarkha sign ('death to America') on 40m road bang slap in front of US embassy
#Yemen
gwb

Anonymous said...

Jake Tapper says Taliban beheaded 15 people in Afghanistan. When we declared war on the Taliban I remember thinking this is a mistake. Wait, I'm being told we never did? Good thing we got Bo Berghdal out of there when we did!
gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: I haven't read 'Hard Choices' but I'm sure Hillary will be returning all that Goldman Sachs money after these 45 hrs of tapes are digested! Carmen Segarra for Presidente!! gwb

http://nypost.com/2014/09/26/tapes-showing-meek-oversight-of-goldman-are-about-to-rock-wall-street/

TSB said...

James, GWB: It's such a crazy world, you could sell tickets. Rabbis break bad on planes, Shia militiamen protect the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, and an Arab woman bombs the caliphate from her F-16. I'm having an adult beverage and wondering what could possibly come next.

Anonymous said...

TSB: You were right along time ago about 'Sharia Law' coming to Oklahoma. Thankfully a guy went to his car and got his Glock and plugged this guy before he beheaded #2. Waiting for the
SWAT team is not a strategy our neighborhood watch endorses. JAMES: Thanks for the Yemen update. I notice AQ says they are moving into Sanaa to prepare for the big fight with Youthi's
Have we relocated our staff to Dubai yet or will that be completed by Thanksgiving? gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: PS: I think the recent 90% increase in fuel prices by Yemen's 'parliament' was ill-advised since it's the world's poorest country. I think Yemen's President has signed his own death warrant.. sort of like Sadat did
by making peace with Isreal alone. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: I found this great pictoral history of Karachi. For me it explains why the Pakistani's I met in the 60's and 70's seemed very intelligent and educated. The downhill slide began with massive Saudi and US $$ in the 80's which caused 'anarchic capitalism', massive drug flows to the rapidly growing slums, mafia etc. When that dried up the whole country was a different place. 'Gates of Hell' gwb
http://www.dawn.com/news/1134284/visual-karachi-from-paris-of-asia-to-city-of-lights-to-hell-on-earth

Anonymous said...

TSB: from NYT: U.S. Considers No-Fly Zone to Protect Civilians in Syria

Surely this would have been impossible a couple million refugees ago when it would have done some good. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: I remember one of those 21 'debates' where Ron Paul got 1 of the 90 minutes to talk. But now he's the hottest thing in Germany! He should take a trot over there and hoist a couple! gwb
http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2014/06/19/video-of-the-day-end-the-fed-rallies-are-exploding-throughout-germany/

James said...

After the relentless toil of nearly 1 1/2 minutes I have found the Administration's theme song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkLZATwrl1o

Anonymous said...

James: Perfect!! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Egypt postpones verdict in case against ex-President Mubarak
By Reuters,
Posted Sept. 27, 2014, at 9:54
a.m. With 160,000 pages of evidence to review I'm sure the appeals court has more work to do but this humble public servant has been thru enough!
(President Mubarak spoke out against the 2003 Iraq War, arguing that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict should have been resolved first. He also said the war would cause "100 Bin Ladens".[37] However, as President he did not support an immediate US withdrawal from Iraq because he believed it would probably lead to chaos.[38] Also, he has been cited as "A friend of the family" by HRC and "No Dictator" by the Hon. (BS) Joe Biden. Plus he has classic good looks! gwb

Anonymous said...

PS: I might add Mubarek has the full support of the Ferguson Police, St.Louis Police, Missouri State Police,
Missouri National Guard and Sen Claire McAskell. (who all would have done the same thing) and Atty Gen. Eric Holder who would still be 'investigating'. gwb

Anonymous said...

Al Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen say fire rocket toward U.S. embassy
TSB: This story says Yemen police are protecting the US embassy and attacked with an anti-tank rocket. Ansar Al Sharia takes the credit but STATE says they know nothing about it. (maybe the Embassy is empty?)

The French want US to support Ansar Al Sharia as a terrorist organizatio at the UN so they can get after them in Libya. US is still sticking to their AQ on the run line but it does look like AQ is running to Saana. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB;James: 'RIP' to James Trafficant (D-Ohio) who died today after his rebuilt antique tractor tipped over on him. 'Beam Me Up Jimmie' was one of my favorites and one of only 2 congressmen deemed corrupt enough to be expelled since the Civil War. (that is how clean our government is!)
As a former antique tractor rebuilder..(I gave it up after it's 3rd attempt on my life and settled for a viscious cat!)I know how dangerous but fun these things can be! gwb
http://tractors.wikia.com/wiki/International_TD-9

TSB said...

GWB: It's just another day in Sanaa for the U.S. Embassy, since that rocket hit a building used by the local police reaction force which is stationed nearby, not the embassy itself. Not all that alarming by Yemeni standards.

The rocket was Old School, an M-72 LAW, the same type I used in Basic Training way back in the previous century.

TSB said...

James: That's the perfect music for the Obama Administration. "You were always spoiled with a thousand toys but still you cried all night. Your Mother who neglected you ..." Cudos!

TSB said...

GWB: I alway appreciate old Karachi photos. Pakistan in general seems like it was a much better place a generation ago (so was Afghanistan). Not sure the downfall occurred due to Saudis and the USA. Massive over-urbanization and over-crowding was a fatal hit on Karachi, speeded up by the floods of several years ago which brought Pashtuns and other culturally alien refugees into the city.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Holder resigns on the good advice of his doctor (wife). That means?? Say 'Hello Darlin' to 'BIG SIS'! Now we can get some much needed specifics on all the big threats! Hopefully we can get that threat level barometer back up before the election and see some 'nose to nose'action with Trey Gowdy. gwb
(go long popcorn and police state ammo/equipment/training!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks TSB! 7 1/2 pounds sure is 'light'. My favorite was the 1925 pic of the huge open car carrying 14 mixed religion folks to a beach picnic. I'm guessing the little kid on the back for a Zoroastrian. (great posture!)

Anonymous said...

TSB: re: Peter Salisbury @altoflacoblanco · 24 de sept.
Sana’a: despite everything, still beautiful
How did he get in there? When I checked for flights on Orbitz all I got back was 'are you nutz?' gwb (I shut down my computer real fast!)

Anonymous said...

TSB: Those genius sanctions dreamed up by Nuland and 'Yatsi' are really gonna hurt Russia now! gwb

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-09-27/russia-discovers-massive-arctic-oil-field-which-may-be-larger-gulf-mexico

Anonymous said...

TSB: Are they going to have elections where you live? No 'SIGN' of it here. Our Senator has one issue. RENAME THE REDSKINS! I can hardly wait to see 3 debates on that. My proposal would be to suspend elections until someone forms a second party. gwb

Anonymous said...

PS: Maybe the 'Moderate Rebel Party'?
gwb

Anonymous said...

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/two-killed-houthi-assault-home-yemens-national-security-chief-1168180111
James:T Rumors abound! That would be sumpthin if Saleh was backing the Houthi's with some generals to take over Northern Sanaa.

The Presidential Palace is in South Sanaa and protected by 4 batallions. (seige mentality?) If AQ moves into the city and Houthi's start a battle for the airport? The Iranians might have to come in to rescue our Embassy personnel. gwb

Anonymous said...

James: They are already taking control of media outlets. (peacefully of course because Yemen doesn't have an FCC).gwb

http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/journalists-yemen-seek-protection-houthis-1915937292

Anonymous said...

TSB: Why Is The USDA Buying Submachine Guns?
Tyler Durden on 09/28/
This one's easy! TWICE last year USDA agents were verbally abused while investigating food stamp fraud. Hell,I was verbally abused by a 350 lb disability seeker! Having a submachine gun handy is a no brainer. Ask any Houthi rebel or my next door 7 yr old. Verbal abuse has to be stopped! (a paid mssg by NFL players assoc.) gwb (did I mention they want a new training facility?)

TSB said...

GWB: We're having an election soon, but there's hardly any sign of it here either. I'm enjoying the peace and quiet.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Yes, quiet is definitely the bright side. Today I was reading about Assad's massacre in Ham (Feb 1982) R.Fisk ingeniously managed to sneak in there on day 2 of that in a taxi with some Syrian soldiers. He was the only reporter to witness it;report on it, and still be reporting 30 yrs later. Old Hafez definitely knew how to put down a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood! His son, not so much. gwb

Anonymous said...

James: Even a German theater club is spoofing the ridiculous Ukrane/US propaganda fiasco in Ukraine. I love the part where they report the Russians responsible at the same time they report the airliner is down. gwb (warning-funny!)
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-09-28/information-war-ukraine

Anonymous said...

TSB:
Robert Fisk
Sunday 28 September 2014
It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis, so why don’t we do it and save some lives?
Nobody criticises the Israeli government when it swaps prisoners with Hezbollah
(It's a great article about what is going on right now in Lebanon and also near Sheeba. Fisk!! To know him is to love him. gwb)

Anonymous said...

TSB: Hong Kongers having their own 'occupy protests'. After 17 years of the rich people in the politburo select the candidates they want a shot at it. Just another anti-american demonstration. We have the rich people choose the candidates in our constitution!! Wait..I'm being told it's not in there? Anyway, good luck to the kids and the Queen! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: This is a lot bigger than a peaceful student rally! And the banks are all closed! Little George 'w'is still out front in the bushes on ISIS watch but wait til he sees this! gwb
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZ7r8qi3NIY

Anonymous said...

TSB: I see 'STATE' puts 'former Saleh supporters in the same category as the Houthi's..and by God we are gonna sanction em if they don't obey the new 'DC style' gun control laws! It looks like they dropped the 90% petrol increase like a hot potato. Now all that is needed is for Saleh to do a 'presser' in his front yard in support of the regime at the palace. Or maybe he will call for new elections? gwb
"The United States also denounces elements seeking to exploit the current security situation to further inflame matters, particularly members of the former Saleh regime and Houthi leadership who continue to use violence to further their own agendas at the expense of the Yemeni people."

The United States said it will pursue more sanctions against those who threaten peace, stability and security in Yemen, "should they not cease such activities immediately."

Anonymous said...

TSB: Very good post by JRC showing how Obama has not understood the real problems behind the Syrian meltdown.
http://www.juancole.com/2014/09/obama-underestimated-syria.html

The real problem was that farming collapsed and the youth came to the cities for day labor jobs while the elite were getting filthy rich in the credit card/banking business monopolies. When the economy tanked the young people had no jobs. Somebody had made the mistake of educating them (94% literacy rate in 2009) and they were very susceptible to extreme religious stuff. (like our Okies) Years of US sanctions had paid off again...and now we are trying salvage the same mess in Yemen by sanctioning the Houthi's? gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: re: 'I'm having an adult beverage and wondering what could possibly come next.' I'm dreaming you might get assigned to go to Yemen to suggest security measures for the upcoming peace talks with the Houthi's. Then you come back with a ceremonial 'Houthi Dagger'autographed by our former/and maybe new best buddy Saleh! (Don't forget these guys are big on tunnelling.) gwb

Anonymous said...

AUGUST 13, 2014 (airs October 5th)
Q&A with Johnnetta Cole
Johnnetta Cole, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, discusses the museum at it marks its fiftieth anniversary, race relations, her opposition to the Vietnam War, and her career at Spelman and Bennett colleges. Anthro 101 prof. from 1965 at WSU. She taught me that being interested and asking lots of questions automatically puts you in the top 15%
of certain classes. Plus, she was a bit of a Fox! We had lots of great discussions and one of us made it to the top! I still love African history and hate imperialism. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: She was full of em but this is my favorite quote from Johnetta Cole:

The ultimate expression of generosity is not in giving of what you have, but in giving of who you are.
—Johnnetta B. Cole