Dem on Securing the White House: How About a Moat?

Melanie Arter | November 19, 2014 | 11:43am EST
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Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the fence on the north side of the White House on Sept. 20, 2014. (Susan Walsh / AP)

( - At a Secret Service oversight hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) raised the possibility that a moat would be effective in preventing unwanted intrusions into the White House in response to recent incidents involving fence jumpers – including one man who made it all the way inside.

“Would a moat – water, six feet around – be kind of attractive and effective?” Cohen asked acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy at the Judiciary Committee hearing.

“Yeah, sir, it may be. One of the things we balance is obviously the accessibility of the White House. We recognize the historic nature of the White House and how the American people should have access to the White House,” said Clancy.

“So we are now in the process of working with our partners at the National Park Services to see if we can do something with the fence. That’s our first step – see if we can do something that would still be appeasing to the eye and keep the historical nature of the White House,” Clancy added.

Clancy took over for former Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, who resigned on Oct. 1 after multiple reports of security breaches. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had urged her to step down.

On Sept. 19, Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez made his way inside the residence, all the way to the Green Room, while carrying a knife before he was apprehended, previously reported.

Cohen asked Clancy if a higher fence would be effective in keeping out intruders.

“Maybe a higher fence, sir, or maybe some other design,” Clancy replied.

“Cause this guy got further in the White House than some of my Republican colleagues have ever gotten,” Cohen said, laughing.

“You’re right, sir, a higher fence would certainly, would help us, and we’re looking for ways and options. In fact, we have—we hope in the next few months to have some renderings, some drawings of some options for people to look at,” Clancy said.

“And the incident on Nov. 11, there’s hardly anything we can do about somebody from a great distance with a rifle, is there?” Cohen asked.

“Well, it’s very challenging. Yes, sir. You’re right, but what we have as a result of that is we’ve pushed out our perimeter a little bit further out to Constitution Avenue to again, to monitor that area as well,” Clancy said.

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