Monday, November 8, 2010

Iconic obelisk presents a monumental security issue

The Washington Monument is unlike any other in the capital, so austere and abstract that creating security arrangements for it has dogged the National Park Service for a decade. Fortunately, plans to build a large, underground visitors center, floated in 1993 and renewed in the security panic after Sept. 11, 2001, never came to fruition. So far, the only permanent security installed at the site - a vehicle barrier made from an artful arrangement of low granite walls, careful landscaping and attractive benches designed by landscape architect Laurie Olin - is one of the extraordinarily rare examples of aesthetically pleasing anti-terrorism designs in the United States.

But Olin's work hasn't solved the problem of how to screen individual visitors seeking access to the monument's interior. Currently, this is done in an unsightly, temporary security hut at the monument's base, a provisional structure that disfigures the striking geometry of the obelisk. Monday night, the Park Service will present the public with five ideas for replacing that temporary facility with something permanent. These proposals, designed to hold the magnetometers that have become ritualistic intrusions at so many federal sites, have made the rounds of the main design oversight bodies in the District for preliminary comment. Now it's the public's turn to weigh in on radical changes to one of the most iconic monuments in the world.

Unfortunately, the bureaucratic gears are already grinding, and what will be presented to the public Monday doesn't include important options, including what became known as the "tunnel" in previous discussions of the issue. Nor does it include the choice of more minimal visitor screening - simple wanding or visual bag inspection - that might not require costly and intrusive changes to the structure. The choice to accept risk isn't on the table, either. Finally, and although it might seem paradoxical given how important resisting security authoritarianism is to preserving the symbolism of freedom, it doesn't take seriously the idea that perhaps the monument's interior should be closed altogether - a small concession that might have collateral benefits.



Search This Blog

Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP