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Secret Service: We’re Going to Need a Bigger Fence

Norton toured the White House perimeter to examine recent security changes. (Courtesy of Norton's office)
Norton toured the White House perimeter to examine recent security changes. (Courtesy of Norton's office)

Along with recommendations for U.S. Secret Service administration and personnel, a report released Thursday recommended the fence surrounding the White House be replaced as soon as possible.  

“Importantly, designers of the new fence must balance security concerns with the long and storied tradition of the White House being the ‘People’s House,'” wrote the report’s authors. “These historical, symbolic, and aesthetic factors deserve consideration, but ultimately they should not be permitted to delay or prevent a fence that could save lives.” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called for the review after White House security breaches rocked the Secret Service this fall.  

On Sept. 19, Omar J. Gonzalez climbed the north fence and was able to enter the White House, launching a re-evaluation of the Secret Service and culminating in the resignation of Director Julia Pierson. Gonzalez pleaded not guilty to one federal and two D.C. charges on Oct. 1.  

As additional three-foot fences were erected around the White House following the breach, D.C. officials, particularly Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton voiced concerns that additional barriers would block the public from the building.  

The report’s authors did not make any recommendations regarding additional barriers around the perimeter, but they did say the seven-and-a-half foot tall fence currently surrounding the White House should be replaced. They wrote the fence should be four feet to five feet taller, should not have horizontal bars and should curve outward at the top.  

Norton will likely welcome the report’s recommendations for a higher fence. She ardently opposed additional barriers and suggested changing the current fence would be a viable alternative.  

In an Oct. 31 letter to Johnson, Norton wrote, “I also believe that further distancing visitors from the White House area would be met with skepticism and protest from Members of Congress. … I ask that you take into consideration the suggestion of many security professionals to install a higher wrought-iron fence that is curved forward.”  

The report’s authors noted that altering the fence is not the only solution to the White House security breaches. “But the problems exposed by recent events go deeper than a new fence can fix,” they wrote.  


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