How Other Nations Bolt the Gates Of Capital Mansions
WASHINGTON — IN Canada, the prime minister's residence is perched protectively on sheer cliffs.
In France, the president's Elysee Palace is surrounded by police and palisade-like walls.
In Italy, only vehicles with passes and public transport can pass by the president's Rome residence during the daytime.
All around the globe heads of state have to shield themselves from surprise attack. Terrorists and other organized adversaries often aren't the biggest problem. As the latest intrusion at the White House shows, it is the lone gunman -- angry, often irrational, always difficult to deter -- who is the bane of security services in most industrial democracies.
Thus the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue and other recent moves to increase security in Washington are far from unusual in the western world. At Britain's Buckingham Palace, for instance, security has been tightened in recent years in response to a series of embarrassing breaches.
Most famously, in 1982 Queen Elizabeth awoke to an intruder sitting quietly on her bed. Last year, a paraglider, painted green from the waist down, landed on the palace roof.
''You just have to live with it,'' Britain's Princess Anne told the Associated Press earlier this year. ''Just traveling around has its own risks but then so does getting out of bed.''
AS of this writing the motives of the Falls Church, Va., man who climbed the White House fence late Tuesday night remain unclear. Leland William Modjeski was wrestled to the ground by a Secret Service agent near the Jacqueline Kennedy garden. Both were wounded by a shot fired by second agent, after it was determined that Mr. Modjeski was armed.
The incident was but the latest in a string of recent security problems. A man crashed a light plane on White House grounds last September; shortly thereafter, the White House itself was peppered with 29 rifle shots fired by Francisco Duran from the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk.
Combined with the implications of the Oklahoma City bombing, these incidents helped persuade President Clinton to approve the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of his residence. But the move was not a sudden change in direction -- White House security has been slowly tightening for years. Since the early 1980s, elaborate barricades of concrete three-foot concrete pillars have been constructed along roads that surround the White House. Security sensors have been updated and heavier weapons -- including, reportedly, anti-aircraft missiles -- have been positioned on the grounds.
It's true that a few nations are more relaxed in their official security than the US. In Japan, for instance, most government ministries have had no security checks at their entrances.
But most are at least as tight as the US, if not tighter. Cars cannot park on the road that leads past German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's official complex. It has long been surrounded by tall fences, dogs, and armed guards.
Canada's prime minister lives in a house set well back from a busy road and shielded on one side by cliffs that drop to the Ottawa River.
Then there is the Russian solution. President Boris Yeltsin eschews his official Moscow apartment. Instead, he lives at his more isolated dacha in the countryside -- and commutes.