Captiol Police cope with new security embarrassment

Members of Congress are dismayed that U.S. Capitol Police failed to stop a lost pedestrian who wandered into the Capitol complex on Tuesday before a Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) construction worker discovered him.

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), who chairs the subcommittee that oversees the Capitol Police, was briefed on the incident yesterday.

“Obviously we still have areas to improve upon in terms of security at the Capitol complex,” said Allard spokeswoman Laura Condeluci. “The question that arises again is how did this man get past Capitol Police?”

According to a Capitol Police press release, a construction worker found a lost pedestrian on the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) grounds. The construction worker then alerted a member of the Capitol Police force who escorted the individual away from the Capitol.

Asked about the incident, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) shook his head and said, “Bizarre.”

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Administration Committee, which has oversight of the Capitol Police, had not been briefed on the incident when he spoke to The Hill early yesterday afternoon. He said the incident makes him “extremely worried.”

Ehlers said Congress has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to the force since Sept. 11, 2001 and that he has concluded that the problems with security must lie up and down the ranks of the Capitol Police.

“We are going to keep pressing them,” Ehlers said.

The breach came on a day when the Capitol Police had bulked up security significantly because of the visit of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

President Bush is scheduled to visit Capitol Hill today.

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) said he had not heard about the new incident but “wished we would have known that when we had [top police brass] in front of us yesterday.”

LaHood and several other members of the House Appropriations Committee met yesterday with Capitol Police brass to discuss the massive breach of Capitol Police security that occurred on the morning of Sept. 18.

Asked for his views on the Tuesday breach, Capitol Police critic and Appropriations committee member Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said, “We’ll have to look at it… it shows we still have serious security issues.”

Moran added that, again, it was a civilian who first noticed the individual wandering the grounds and not the Capitol Police.

This is the second breach in as many weeks on the Capitol’s East Front where the massive CVC project is being constructed.

Capitol Police officials have sought to shore up the construction site after Carlos Greene, 20, crashed his car into a wall surrounding a skylight on the complex. He sped past a police vehicle and ran into the Capitol building.

Greene was apprehended first by members of the Senate Flag Office and then by Capitol Police. Officers found a loaded Derringer pistol and crack cocaine in his pocket.

Earlier this week nearly 40 officers from different divisions of the Capitol Police were reassigned to patrol the CVC construction site.

Ehlers said he had spoken to House sergeant at arms Wilson Livingood as recently as yesterday morning. As the Sergeant at Arms, Livingood is the principal law enforcement official on the House side of the Capitol and is in charge of security on the floor as well as the House side of the Capitol complex.

“I chastised the [House] sergeant at arms for not being adequately notified about what was happening [on Sept. 18],” he said.

Ehlers criticized Livingood for not making staff aware of the intruder through the emergency alert system until “well after” Greene was apprehended.

“We need to know immediately. I mean immediately,” he said.

Greene is in D.C. jail awaiting the grand jury to convene and hear his case.

Livingood, who chairs the Capitol Police Board, had no comment on the incident.