Multiple security breaches spark debate for new White House fence

Debate sparks over new White House fence following multiple security breaches (ABC7)

WASHINGTON (ABC7) - It's almost certainly the best selfie photo-op in the District.

Even in this era of high security, the White House is a magnet for tourists.

"You'd like to be able to see it, still be able to view it," says Dan Kemble, visiting from Connecticut. "But at the same time present a certain level of safety."

In some respects the first day of Spring was a typical day outside the White House.

\Smiling tourists and giggling groups of children posed for pictures outside the president's house, ringed by a seven-foot-high fence.

But there were other security measures in place.

Along Pennsylvania Avenue, heavily armed officers stood watch every 20 feet.

Late in the afternoon, the plaza outside the White House was cleared of civilian foot traffic, as some VIPs left the compound.

Many grateful for the increased security, but wondering if a new, improved White House fence would help.

"What are you, going to put barbed wire on it?" asked Jordan Kemble, visiting with her husband. "This is our White House, there's got to be other ways to stop people from jumping over it."

Visitors, the Secret Service and the National Park Service all got a wake up call over the weekend with two attempted security breaches on Saturday.

That followed a successful breach on March 10, when a California man, identified as 26-year-old Jonathan Tran, roamed the property for 16 minutes, reportedly jiggling a door, before Secret Service officers apprehended and arrested him.

"Safety is important," says Matthew McGarry, a Florida resident. "I did not like hearing people were rattling the doors last week. That's out of the question. With a backpack on, that's out of the question. We have to stop that."

In a news release, the Secret Service says Tran first scaled a five foot tall outer perimeter fence near the Treasury complex, climbed an eight foot tall vehicle gate, and finally scaled a three-and-a-half foot fence near the East Wing of the White House grounds.

Sources say since the incident, additional posts, technology enhancements and response protocols have been put into place to prevent another incident.

Fast forward to this past Saturday, when 58 year old William Rawlinson was seen jumping over an auxiliary security barrier, into a 'prohibited area' along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Police say he was yelling 'nonsensical statements,' when he was taken into custody.

Rawlinson, of Silver Spring, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor unlawful, and was released from the DC Jail Monday--- albeit, with an order to return April 12th.

On Saturday night there was a more troubling encounter.

Police say around 10 p.m., Sean Keoughan, 29, drove up to a security checkpoint at 15th and ' Streets, Northwest.

According to court documents, Keoughan, of Roanoke, Virginia, told an officer he had a meeting with President Trump.

After the officer asked the 29-year-old if he had a point of contact, he drove away.

Then, about an hour later, Keoughan pulled up again, got out of the black Impala he was driving and allegedly said words to the effect of "there's a bomb in the trunk."

The court papers say after officers handcuffed Keoughan at gunpoint, he told them a bag in the trunk didn't contain a bomb, but 'just an asteroid' made of the 'heaviest metal known to man' that he obtained from his father through a 'wormhole.'

The documents also say Keoughan stated that Trump speaks to him telepathically though a process called 'Think Talk'.

During a federal hearing Monday, a judge ordered Keoughan to remain in the custody of the US Marshals and to undergo a psychiatric examination.

The Roanoke man faces charges of 'threatening, and conveying false information concerning use of an explosive' and has been ordered to return to court Thursday.

Keoughan responded to questions from the judge and appeared to understand the charges against him.

All of these events take place as the Secret Service and the National Park Service consider plans for a taller, more secure White House fence.

Among the ideas are to increase the height of the 3,500 foot long fence from 11-foot-seven inches, to just over 13 feet.

The US Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission have given their go-ahead, but the actual fence isn't due to be ready until early 2018.

Some renderings show a taller version of what visitors see now, a stronger, thicker fence, with high-tech equipment like motion-sensing devices.

Visitors say they think it's important for the White House to be secure, without being a fortress. That includes a fence that's too intrusive.

"If it prevents you from seeing that (the White House) greatly, then it doesn't sound so good to me," McGarry says. "If it doesn's inhibit the view, and provide an additional layer of safety and prevention, then maybe okay."

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