Police Look to Boost Security Screening at Hill Garages

Staffers can drive into garages and enter House office buildings without ever being searched. That may change soon.

Despite the House and Senate being off these past two weeks, security around the Capitol itself is just a busy as ever according to the Capitol Police stationed there. 
National Journal
Rachel Roubein
Add to Briefcase
Rachel Roubein
June 3, 2015, 1:40 p.m.

Frequent visitors to the Capitol and its office buildings know the drill: Enter, remove all bags, send personal items through an X-ray machine or let a Capitol Police officer inspect inside, and walk through a metal detector.

It’s a standard security checkpoint—but not for many House staffers who drive to work. In their case, as a National Journal reporter experienced last year, an officer meets the car at a barricade. But once a staffer parks, he or she can enter some House buildings without going through a metal detector or ever having bags searched.

But that may soon change.

At a House Administration Committee hearing Wednesday, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving briefly mentioned a garage security-enhancement project. Its purpose: to address “existing vulnerabilities” and to enhance the security of the chamber’s office buildings.

“The goal ultimately is to restrict the number of access points, so that everyone can undergo security screening,” Irving said during the hearing. “There will be some conveniences that will be dispensed with, but I will say that we will do everything we can do to make sure members have access to the doors that they require.”

It’s a multi-phase project. The first would install the infrastructure and hardware to be able to lock down the garage entrances during an emergency. The second requires a design and feasibility study performed in conjunction with the Sergeant at Arms, the Architect of the Capitol, and the Capitol Police to ensure that all who enter the House Office buildings undergo “a consistent level of screening to ensure the safety and security of all those who work and visit our House office buildings.” (There is a security checkpoint with metal detectors and X-ray machines for both visitors and staffers before they enter the U.S. Capitol through an interconnecting tunnel in a House Office building).

In an interview after the hearing, Irving was sparse on the project’s details and timeline, saying he is still working with the committee and leadership on the project. “We have some more issues that we need to work through. “¦ Some of it is funding-related, some of it is the—you heard me speak to it today—the business process of the institution,” Irving said. “We have to be very mindful of ensuring that members get to where they need to go unimpeded, so those issues we’re working through.”

There is a degree of screening now when entering the garages (last summer, a Capitol Police officer inspected the trunk and checked the driver’s parking sticker and ID when a National Journal reporter went through a House Office garage with two senior staffers). Even before the project is complete, Irving said the security screening will be enhanced, though he again declined to go into the specifics.

Lt. Kimberly Schneider, Capitol Police spokeswoman, wrote in an email that “while we do not discuss our security operations, the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) constantly assesses and reassesses our security procedures in close coordination with the Capitol Police Board. The USCP utilizes the funds provided by the Congress to maintain robust security.”

This gap in security is not unlike the one that existed in 2013 at Washington Navy Yard, where shooter Aaron Alexis, a government contractor, parked in a garage, walked into building #197 with a backpack, and proceeded to an elevator.

Earlier this week, a summer intern for Rep. Lynn Jenkins was arrested for possessing an unloaded 9mm handgun while entering the Longworth building. He came in through a street entrance. While the congresswoman’s office said the event is believed to be an accident, 25-year-old Joshua Wheeler didn’t make it all the way into the building.

What We're Following See More »
DOJ Charges Russian For Meddling In 2018 Midterms
1 hours ago

"The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her alleged role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of 'Project Lakhta,' a foreign influence operation they said was designed 'to sow discord in the U.S. political system' by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and the National Football League national-anthem protests."

U.S. Cancels Military Exercise With South Korea
2 hours ago

The United States and South Korea have suspended "another major joint military exercise to give the diplomatic process with North Korea 'every opportunity to continue.'" Exercise Vigilant Ace, which last year "involved 12,000 US troops and some 230 military aircraft from the US and South Korea," was due to take place in December. Trump has canceled other operations in the past, which Gen. Robert Abrams said "had resulted in a 'slight degradation' to the readiness of US and Korean troops," but were a "prudent risk" to improve improve relations with Pyongyang.

Mnuchin to Attend Saudi Terror Financing Meeting
4 hours ago

"Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has decided to take part in an anti-terror finance meeting with Saudi security officials and their Middle Eastern counterparts in Riyadh later this month, opting to attend despite growing global outrage over the suspected murder of a U.S.-based journalist at the hands of Saudi operatives, according to three people familiar with his travel plans. The security gathering next week is separate from a Riyadh financial summit that Mnuchin announced on Thursday he would not attend."

Ex-USA Gymnastics CEO Indicted For Tampering With Sexual Assault Evidence
4 hours ago

"Steve Penny, the former president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, has been indicted on a felony count of tampering with evidence" in the sexual assault case against disgraced USA gymnastics physician Larry Nassar. Nassar was found guilty in January of sexually abusing dozens of young gymnasts, and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Penny, who was arrested on Wednesday in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, "is accused of ordering the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch in Texas," where much of Nassar's abuse occurred.

Public May Not See Mueller Report
5 hours ago

Defense attorneys involved in the Mueller probe say the public "shouldn’t expect a comprehensive and presidency-wrecking account of Kremlin meddling and alleged obstruction of justice by Trump — not to mention an explanation of the myriad subplots that have bedeviled lawmakers, journalists and amateur Mueller sleuths. ... Perhaps most unsatisfying: Mueller’s findings may never even see the light of day."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.