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Capitol Police Were Warned of Holes in Security

Capitol Police Were Warned of Holes in Security
Capitol Police Were Warned of Holes in Security

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By Sari Horwitz, Mary Beth Sheridan and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
September 23, 2006

Capitol Police officers warned their superiors this summer that the U.S. 
Capitol needed tighter security because of construction work, but a door 
was left unguarded this week, allowing the worst breach in eight years, 
officials said yesterday.

A drug-addled man easily drove a Chevrolet TrailBlazer through a 
partially blocked construction entrance to the Capitol grounds, 
according to officials and court testimony. The man then outran two 
dozen police officers into the building and went from floor to floor 
until a civilian employee lifted him up and literally handed him to 
police. The officers found a loaded pistol in the intruder's waistband.

New revelations emerged as authorities continued to investigate Monday's 
incident. As days go by, the officials have grudgingly admitted further 
blunders in one of the biggest embarrassments for the law enforcement 
agency in years.

No one was injured in the early morning drama, which ended in the man's 
arrest. But legislators are outraged that it could occur, given the $2 
billion they have spent on police and equipment at the Capitol since the 
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"We have provided the [Capitol] police everything they've ever asked us 
for . . . from equipment to personnel. At times around here, this place 
looks like an armed camp," said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), a member of 
the House Appropriations Committee. "For somebody to be able to breach 
this kind of security is ridiculous."

The security mistakes were as basic as failing to block a construction 
entrance at First Street and Maryland Avenue NE, officials said. Capitol 
Police officers who were at that site incorrectly parked their 
sport-utility vehicle so it was perpendicular to the street, not 
blocking traffic from getting through the opening, according to police 
officials and testimony at a hearing for the intruder yesterday in U.S. 
District Court.

That allowed Carlos Greene, 20, of Silver Spring, who has a record of 
gun offenses, to drive through the entrance, swiping the passenger's 
side of the officers' SUV along the way, the officials said.

Acting Capitol Police Chief Christopher M. McGaffin said in an interview 
that he had learned only yesterday afternoon that a group of officers 
recently expressed concern about security at the construction site for 
the Capitol Visitor Center, on the east side of the building -- and then 
only after a query from a Washington Post reporter.

He said that several lieutenants had put together an e-mail memo on Aug. 
4 with "very solid, substantive identifications of security concerns 
within the Capitol building," particularly in the area where there is 

As construction has progressed in recent weeks, authorities have 
dismantled wooden fences that had blocked the Capitol steps, leaving the 
area more open, according to law enforcement sources.

McGaffin said the lieutenants sent their concerns to the commander of 
the Capitol Police Security Services Bureau, which is in charge of 
physical security. On Aug. 9, that bureau inspected the identified 
areas, the chief said.

"Corrective action" was taken in every area, "with one or two 
exceptions," McGaffin said. He said a report detailing the problems and 
solutions was provided to Assistant Chief Larry Thompson on Aug.
14 but did not go any higher until yesterday. The report also indicates 
that additional foot patrols would be added to help guard the area -- 
but it was unclear whether they materialized, McGaffin said.

No one was guarding a door at the top of the Capitol steps that the 
gunman ran through shortly before 8 a.m. Monday -- an entrance that was 
being used mostly by construction personnel. McGaffin said an officer 
had been at that post early in the morning but had left to assist on the 
Capitol periphery, apparently because of a construction delivery.

Other law enforcement officials, however, said the post had not been 
staffed for days, or perhaps weeks.

"Someone made a judgment call that that was a post not needed," said one 
source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized 
to discuss results of an ongoing internal investigation.

McGaffin said he wasn't sure whether the post was continuously staffed 
and added that he assigned his inspector general to get to the bottom of 
that and other problems exposed by Monday's incident.

"This is part of the exercise we're going through with this internal 
investigation, to just find out: Was that decision made? Was the 
decision made to move a post, or move an officer, and if so, what was 
the basis of the decision?" he said yesterday evening, adding that he 
did not yet have the answers.

It was the worst security breach since July 24, 1998, when a former 
mental patient stormed past a magnetometer and killed Capitol Police 
officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson. The patient, Russell 
Eugene Weston Jr., was arrested after he was shot during gunfire with 

The Capitol Police has about as many officers as does the city of 
Cleveland -- roughly 1,600. Including civilians, the department has 
about 2,300 personnel, an increase of about 50 percent in five years.

Its annual budget has roughly tripled during that period, reaching $257 
million in 2006. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars have been 
spent on facilities and equipment to increase security at the Capitol, 
from underground bunkers to a sophisticated hazmat unit.

As the force has grown rapidly, it has dealt with an increasing range of 
threats that go far beyond the 200-square-block area in and around the 
Capitol. The Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda strike and the subsequent anthrax 
attacks put Capitol Police on the front lines of the anti-terror fight.

Terrance W. Gainer, the former Capitol Police chief who resigned last 
spring, said the demands have increased so much that "we have not gotten 

Still, Monday's incident showed not just potential problems with 
staffing levels, but also with oversight of personnel, he said. In June 
and July, as fences were dismantled on the East front of the Capitol to 
permit construction work, "there should have been a lot of dialogue 
about how many people you have out there and who is responsible for 
those folks," Gainer said.

Some officers have complained of drift in the department since Gainer 

"We have an acting chief, an acting assistant chief. No one is willing 
to make a decision," said one officer, who spoke on condition of 
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

McGaffin is scheduled to retire this fall. He has blamed the security 
breach on human error.

Private security experts said Capitol Police should have been well 
prepared for an intruder charging an entrance -- a common tactic that 
terrorists and other would-be assailants have used for decades. In 1974, 
1981 and 1984, drivers rammed gates on the White House grounds in 
unsuccessful efforts to reach the president's residence.

Testimony yesterday by Capitol Police Detective Nettie Watts gave the 
most complete account yet of how many officers and checkpoints Greene 
was able to evade. After the hearing, Greene was ordered to remain 
jailed on a weapons charge stemming from the intrusion.

He was first spotted by a Capitol Police officer about 7:40 a.m. at a 
security barricade at First and C streets SE, Watts told the court. 
Greene nearly slammed into the barricade but hit the brakes just short 
of doing so, nearly hitting a pedestrian, Watts testified.

Greene then backed up and sped east on C Street -- nearly striking the 
same pedestrian, she said. The officer at that checkpoint called in a 
"Priority 1" alert on Capitol Police radio warning about the fast-moving 
driver of a silver SUV.

Less than two minutes later, Greene got past the officer who was 
supposed to be guarding the entrance to the construction site, at First 
Street and Maryland Avenue NE. She was parked in such way that he easily 
could evade her and zoom onto the grounds. A pop-up barrier was not in 
use because of the flow of construction vehicles.

On Monday, McGaffin said Greene hit the officer's vehicle, and charging 
documents say he "rammed" into it, suggesting that she was blocking the 
entrance. But under questioning from Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, 
Watts said Greene merely swiped the passenger side as he flew past.

After hitting a concrete wall around a skylight on the grounds, Greene 
bailed out of the SUV and ran up the Capitol steps and through the open 
door. Soon, he was within steps of Senate offices.

Greene continued running until he reached a basement office used to 
supply citizens with flags that have flown over the Capitol. He grabbed 
a female employee by the arm, Watts said, quoting him as saying, "I need 
a place to hide."

A man from the same office saw his colleague in distress and scuffled 
with Greene, according to Watts's testimony. But then Greene broke free 
and entered the flag office.

That's when a third employee emerged from a room inside that office. 
Greene dashed toward the man, and the ensuing fight knocked plaques and 
a fire extinguisher off the walls.

According to Watts, a flag room employee said Capitol Police arrived 
within "minutes." But Capitol Police have said they were there in 
seconds. As officers opened the door, the employee inside physically 
lifted Greene and handed him to the police.

"So he pushes him, effectively, into the officers' hands?" Facciola 

"Yes," Watts said.

Staff writer Spencer H. Hsu contributed to this report.

=C2=A9 2006 The Washington Post Company

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