The National Park Service and United States Secret Service began construction on a new White House fence in July 2019. With an estimated $64 million price tag, the new barrier features an approximately 13 feet tall fence with wider and stronger fence posts, according to the National Park Service. The upgrade came after several incidents over the past few years of intruders trying to scale the fence and enter the White House grounds.
The NPS noted that the new fence “incorporates anti-climb and intrusion detection technology and is designed to mitigate current and future security threats,” and while the current status of the project, which has been completed in phases, is unclear, there’s one minor, yet potentially significant flaw. The spacing of the railing is wide enough to allow children to slip right through.
A Reuters photograph of a small boy climbing through the White House fence at will Sunday morning was shared by the Daily Mail, as well as an Associated Press photograph of a slightly older boy squeezing through the railings while taking a selfie. According to the British tabloid, President Joe Biden was present in the Executive Mansion when the intrusions took place.
“Getting past White House security is child’s play!” the headline blared, with the Daily Mail reporting that “two young boys were photographed squeezing through the railings surrounding the White House Sunday afternoon.”
“One unidentified child in an orange shirt looked jubilant as he hopped in and out of the property shortly after 11 am,” the article said. “A slightly older child in a white shirt and rainbow sleeve stepped halfway inside at around 1.20 pm, as onlookers extended their arms into White House property to get a closer shot of the presidential residence.”
Little boys snapped easing themselves through White House railing
— Caroline Ramsey-Hamilton (@RiskAlert) October 18, 2021
While the likelihood of there being pint-sized terrorists is rather slim, terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and ISIS are notorious for using women and children as suicide bombers. Of course, the odds of a child penetrating the White House is even smaller. However, in Sept. 2014, Omar Gonzalez scaled the fence and managed to enter the White House through the North Portico doors. The Iraqi War veteran, 42 years old at the time, reportedly overpowered a female Secret Service officer and made it all the way to the East Room before being apprehended.
The security breach occurred just minutes after President Obama and his daughters departed the White House aboard Marine One for a weekend trip to Camp David. First lady Michelle Obama had traveled to the presidential retreat separately.
As for the history of fencing around the Executive Mansion, President Thomas Jefferson ordered the construction of a wooden post and rail fence around the White House, according to the White House Historical Association. Jefferson replaced the fence in 1808 with a stone wall that enclosed the White House Grounds. In 1818-19, a new semicircular driveway marked by eight stone piers, an iron fence and gates was built across the North Front of the White House, the WHHA reported, adding that in 1833, “a long and heavy wrought iron fence was installed along Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the White House. Jefferson’s stone wall was cut down along this run and served as the foundation for the new fence. This work was integrated into the existing 1818-1819 semicircular fencing.”
Additions and renovations have continued over the years, including the closing of Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House to all vehicular traffic by President Bill Clinton following the Oklahoma City bombing.
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