Former Secret Service Agent: ‘No Reason’ to Close White House Sidewalk
Bongino says build double-fence rather than shut down popular tourist spot
Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino says the agency’s closure of the sidewalk south of the White House, announced Wednesday, isn’t necessary.
“There’s no reason to shut down the sidewalk,” he told LifeZette, “They just need to rip down the fence and build a double one.”
“I think we should dramatically expand the special-weapons teams and canine units.”
And it doesn’t need to affect the appearance of the White House property, he says. It can be an aesthetically pleasing fence.
“HOAs do this all the time,” he said, pointing to attractive and secure fencing around homeowners association communities in Florida, where he lives.
The Secret Service announcement on Wednesday that it is closing the south sidewalk, effective today, comes the month after a man jumped the fence on the east side of the White House and made it to the steps of the South Portico before he was finally stopped by the Secret Service. He was on the White House property for a total of 16 minutes.
Bongino took to Facebook the next day with a dire warning that the president “is not safe anymore.”
“If you think the Secret Service right now under the current security plan is prepared for a multi-man tactical assault on the White House, you’re out of your mind,” he said March 13 on Fox News’ Fox & Friends.
Many people were incredulous that the jumper, 26-year-old Jonathan Tuan Tran, was not stopped sooner, given numerous other recent breaches, including the 2014 incident in which a former Army sniper named Omar Gonzalez jumped the fence on the north side of the White House complex, burst through the front door of the executive mansion, ran past the half flight of stairs leading to the president’s residence, and made into the East Room before he was finally tackled, exposing failures at multiple levels of security.
It was reported last week that two people were fired in connection with the March 10 breach by Tran.
The sidewalk that runs along the south fence is commonly used by tourists wanting a view of the South Lawn and South Portico of the White House.
The Secret Service said in a statement on Wednesday that the closure of the sidewalk will “lessen the possibility of individuals illegally accessing the White House grounds” and “create a clear visual break to enable Secret Service officers to identify and respond to potential hazards, including individuals attempting to scale the fence.”
The closure will prevent the public from accessing the sidewalk, road and grounds between the south fence and E Street NW between West Executive Avenue and East Executive Avenue.
“Before you know it we won’t be able to even look at the White House,” one person quipped on Twitter following the Secret Service’s announcement of the closure.
The agency said the change is part of its “ongoing comprehensive review” of security measures.
Bongino, who was a Secret Service agent from 1999 to 2011 and is now completing his third book about the agency, said he thinks the Secret Service is moving in the right direction in reviewing all security in and around the White House, which he calls “the most threatened building on earth” that is also now the residence of one of the most threatened men on earth.
“I think we should dramatically expand the special-weapons teams and canine units,” he says, adding that if there’s a double fence, agents with dogs can patrol between the two fences. Special-weapons teams on the White House property, he says, can remain “relatively hidden.”
The fence surrounding the White House property is now just six feet high. A plan was approved in February to install a new, 10-foot-7-inch fence that will actually extend 13 feet 1 inch into the air, on top of a stone base. It will include crash-proof gates and is said to have “anti-climbing measures.” It is to be installed in 2018.