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Capitol monuments vulnerable to terrorists

None of the security recommendations made in a 1999 report commissioned by the National Park Service have been implemented.
None of the security recommendations made in a 1999 report commissioned by the National Park Service have been implemented.  

By Jeanne Meserve
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The many monuments on the national mall in Washington are emblems of America that honor historical heroes and sacrifices. They are also very vulnerable terrorist targets.

CNN has obtained a report commissioned by National Park Service that was never publicly released. The 1999 study analyzed weaknesses in the protection of monuments and memorials in the U.S. capitol.

Two years later, none of its significant recommendations has been implemented.

"They just haven't occurred yet and believe me it creates a great level of frustration for my troops," said Benjamin Holmes, acting chief of the U.S. Park Police.

Instead of increasing the number of police officers, as the report recommended, their numbers are now lower.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports Washington memorials are vulnerable to attack but little has been done to protect them (October 18)

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The antiquated Park Police communications system has not been replaced or even upgraded, although the report warned that: "The potential for a communications failure in a crisis situation is extremely critical." Indeed, officers have trouble using outdated radios to communicate with one another, much less with other law enforcement agencies.

Some of the other recommendations in the report:

--- Remove large trash receptacles where a bomb could be planted.

--- Improve traffic barriers.

--- Implement better security at some entrances at the memorials.

--- Move parking lots from memorials when they are too close.

The report, from the business-consulting firm Booz Allen, also urged the installation of surveillance cameras, sensors and alarms, and the screening of personal bags such as backpacks.

"It appears to us to be common sense and it appears to a lot of people to be common sense. The question now is ... when are we going to do it?" asked Peter Ward of the U.S. Park Police.

The answer -- when there is money. None of the items recommended in the report has been a priority in the U.S. Interior Department budget. But many close to the situation believe the events of September 11 may have changed that.


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