White House Officials Had Rejected Moat as Part of Enhanced Security Plan

White House officials rejected a moat and an electrified fence as parts of stepped-up security measures after multiple people breached the fence, according to information obtained by the News4 I-Team.

The news comes just days after a college student draped in an American flag became the first person to leap the White House fence after the Secret Service installed metal spikes atop it.

The Thanksgiving Day breach by 22-year-old Joseph Caputo prompted a lockdown of the White House grounds while President Barack Obama was celebrating the holiday with his family.

The spikes atop the fence had been installed in the wake of several earlier security breaches -- including one by a man with a knife who made it all the way into the East Room.

The new spikes were just the first step in enhanced security, with more major changes still to come outside the White House, the Ellipse and President's Park, south of the White House.

A proposed moat or other "water feature" was taken out of the running due to concerns over routine maintenance, the difficulty of retrieving an intruder and the effect on the historic landscape, according to a document obtained by the News4 I-Team.

Another proposal, for an electrified fence or electrified top rail, was rejected due to the risk of malfunction and potential harm to animals. Other rejected proposals included "non-drying" or anti-grip paint, low plantings with an "entanglement network."

While more changes will be made to both the fence and the surrounding area, those changes will take longer than officials had originally planned.

For at least five years, the federal government has been planning security upgrades to the 52-acre space on the south of the White House, including more permanent blockades for vehicles and barriers and signs to change how tourists on foot move through this area.

Federal officials were expected to submit their plans by the end of the year -- but News4 has learned those plans are now not expected until early 2016. The National Park Service said it's waiting until February to allow more time to also plan permanent, larger changes to the White House fence.

Agency records show the federal government did agree that any new, permanent fence must include an anti-climb feature, possibly including those spikes they recently installed.

At least four different federal agencies have some say over this project. The U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service are currently developing the plan. Another two agencies must approve it: the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, making it even harder to know when the actual work will begin.

Nick Neujahr, who is visiting from Denver, said he immediately noticed the recently added spikes atop the security fence.

"In some ways, I'd even expect the fence to be bigger," Neujahr said. "And I think especially with recent terror attacks, you can't take security too lightly these days."

On Monday, Caputo pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry onto restricted grounds, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison.

He was released from custody and ordered to live with his mother in Connecticut until his case is resolved, but a judge ordered him to submit to electronic monitoring, observe an 8 p.m. curfew, and stay away from D.C. except for court appearances and meetings with lawyers.

Caputo, a student at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut who has no criminal history, will also undergo a mental health evaluation.

Caputo and his mother declined to comment as they left court. His attorney, Stephan Seeger, said Caputo's actions were a form of protest and that he had no plans to harm himself or anyone else. He went over the fence with a binder in his teeth containing a revised version of the Constitution, Seeger said.

"He's a politically conscious young man," Seeger said. "Some of the things that he wrote in his rewritten Constitution of sorts included the need for change in education, separation of power, voting and type of thing."

How Caputo chose to deliver his message is the issue, Seeger said.

"I just don't think that Joe Caputo is the poster child for enhanced security at the White House or anywhere else in the country for that matter," he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us