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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The National Journal's Yochi Dreazen on the new garrison state of Washington, D.C.: “Walled Off Washington"

Commemorative plaque located by the Document Door in the United States Capitol
IN HONOR AND REMEMBRANCE OF THE HEROISM DISPLAYED BY OFFICER JACOB JOSEPH CHESTNUT AND DETECTIVE JOHN MICHAEL GIBSON UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE WHO, ON JULY 24, 1998, HERE BRAVELY GAVE THEIR LIVES DEFENDING THE UNITED STATES CAPITOL
DEDICATED BY THE HONORABLE J. DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, AND THE HONORABLE STROM THURMOND, PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Capitol_shooting_incident_%281998%29

At the exact time of the 1998 incident above -near Tom Delay's office- I was over in the Rayburn Building across the street.



Former Wall Street Journal Military Correspondent Yochi Dreazen, now in his sixth month at The National Journal, http://nationaljournal.com/ has a good story on the philosophical and public policy debate on personal security among the official Washington set that's only gotten more hysterical following last week's shooting in Tucson, as that perpetual Inside the Beltway debate over ease-of-access to elected officials vs. adequate security safeguards, and the well-known arguments that underpin the two sides, are both re-evaluated.


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The National Journal

ANALYSIS

Walled-Off Washington

How free can a society be when its elected officials are kept further and further away from those they represent?

By Yochi J. Dreazen

Monday, January 10, 2011 | 2:55 p.m.

Updated at 3:07 p.m. on January 10.


It’s hard to remember, but Washington wasn’t always a city of walls.


Thomas Jefferson held a public reception at the White House after his second inaugural, and citizens were able to freely wander through the building to personally ask presidents like Abraham Lincoln for jobs and other favors. Harry Truman took long walks around Washington each morning protected by just a handful of Secret Service agents. Capitol Hill had no roadblocks or barricades, and cars and trucks passed directly in front of the White House as they drove down Pennsylvania Avenue, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares.

Today, those seem like postcards from a forgotten era.


Read the rest of the story at:
http://nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/washington-not-always-a-city-of-walls-20110110

Frankly, there are some people I can think of on Capitol Hill who have long believed that the public already had TOO MUCH access to them and their staffers, yet had no problem in meeting lobbyists in questionable public places where the security was lax to say the least, and where all kinds of things could happen if someone were so inclined.


I've personally seen questionable personal behavior at the area's three main airports among well-known elected and appointed officials -and the press- that was really over-the-top, and while perhaps not exactly TMZ-worthy, was NOT at all what the constituents back home, or even the top echelons of their Dept would want to see or know anything about.

Okay for South Florida, perhaps, but not among the professional institutional set.

Plus,
there are SO MANY sieves in security up there, it's ridiculous.

Anyone who has worked there for any length of time can recite all sorts of specific places and circumstances where something could be done simply and quickly with few the wiser.


After 9/11, some effort was made to change some of these places, but others, well, not as much as you'd expect.

When you live just five blocks from the U.S. Capitol, as I did for a while my first year in Washington, you think about all sorts of things, and when you see the U.S. Capitol Police and The Supreme Court Police everyday, security and safety is on that list, especially when you are walking back at night, after work, from your daily walk over to The Washington Monument and back, listening to either talk radio or NPR.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supreme_Court_Police

I personally believe that elected representatives who have unreasonable fears should simply hire their own security at their own expense, not ours.
If you don't like the working conditions, there's always somebody happy to take your job.
You are completely replaceable.


Many new congressmen and staffers come to town under the mistaken belief that The U.S. Capitol Police are like White House-detailed Secret Service agents and are ready to take a bullet for them.
They're not!
http://www.uscapitolpolice.gov/home.php

Having gotten to know many of them over the years because I tended to go to the same floors in the same House and Senate building because of my job and interests, and there are only so many places to cross the street, I can tell you that, collectively, their worst fears were very stupid congressmen -or even stupider staffers- who put themselves in harms way by their foolish personal behavior and choices, and who seem to expect the Capital Police to extricate them.


Representatives who refuse to use prudent judgment or who continually cause problems become
quickly known among the police force. Then they become quickly well-known to the media and the general public.

Former Georgia Rep.
Cynthia McKinney is perhaps the most obvious example I can think of, and it bears mentioning here that even among the female cops, there's a belief that, for whatever reason, the female Reps are esp. reluctant to follow the simple rules that everyone else MUST follow.

Nobody cares that you used to be the mayor of Dog Patch, ran a Fortune 500 company or were formerly the House Minority Leader in dopey Florida.
You are a dime a dozen!

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,189553,00.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/20/washington/20brfs-010.html?_r=1&ref=cynthiaamckinney

Consider this: based on what we now know about the depth of his myriad problems with substance abuse and anger control, do you honestly think that Patrick Kennedy, now a former Congressman, never drove his car while not under control on the side-streets near the Capitol office buildings? Really?

http://www.wusa9.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=49033 http://www.uscapitolpolice.gov/pressreleases/2006/pr_05-05-06.php

The first thing I thought of when he was arrested was that he was very lucky that he never hit anyone at night, because a D.C. jury would have made an example out of him in a way that would simply not ever happen back in Rhode Island.


See also:
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/11/sen-leahy-sees-a-downside-to-more-security/

http://nationaljournal.com/

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