Fortress Washington

white house, through fence, north side AP

Even as Washington opens its arms to a new administration this weekend, parts of America's capital city remain closed — none more conspicuously than the area right in front of the new president's new home.

"It'll be blocked," says former New York Sen. Patrick Moynihan. "Pennsylvania Avenue has been closed in front of the White House! It's something President Kennedy could not have imagined."

"We are not a frightened people," says Moynihan. "We are not under siege."

But in the 40 years since John F. Kennedy rode down Pennsylvania Avenue after his inauguration, the United States has gone from the threat of nuclear war to the reality of terrorism. And nowhere has the change been more stunning than in the nation's capital.

D.C. On The Defensive
Click here to read part two of CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart's report on Washington security.
Seen from the sky, Washington today is a fortress. The very street President-elect Bush will parade down is flanked by five buildings and several parks forever closed to the public. Across the city some two dozen federal buildings are now labeled Category 4, meaning no general access and high terrorist risk.

If George W. Bush, disguised as an ordinary citizen, were to somehow slip into the bleachers along the parade route Saturday to watch the parade, he'd likely be in for a surprise. For starters, he'd have to go through a security checkpoint just to walk the sidewalks of Pennsylvania Avenue. That's a first, even for this city.

On the way, he'd pass the FBI building, where passerby can see the light from a beautiful open air atrium built inside. But no ordinary citizen can just walk in there anymore. You have to be invited, and then inspected, sniffed and escorted. The same is true at the Justice Department.

"These were intended to be spaces open to the public," says Bob Peck, National Commissioner of Public Buildings, who feels the city is starting to strangle itself with street closings, all in the name of security.

"Of course, this loop around the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was closed after the Oklahoma City bombing," he said. "In other areas we've taken parking off the street."

For example, around the State Department, first C Street, then D Street, then 21st Street anparts of 23rd, were closed off out of fear of truck bombs.

Complete Coverage
Heavy Security For Inauguration … agents from 16 federal agencies and 7,000 police will be charged with protecting ad controlling the 700,000 spectators expected for Inauguration Day.

Washington Gets Ready … Latin pop sensation Ricky Martin and Muhammad Ali helped kick off the start of the capital city's inaugural festivities.

Stay with CBS News and CBSNews.com for complete inaugual coverage.

The same is true at the FBI, where, says Moynihan, "Inside there are seats, fixed seats, and lectures were given and some concerts were given. Those are clamped down like prison cells now! You couldn't possibly get in."

When a federal agency can't close down a street, they sabotage it. The City of Washington says the federal government has now sawed the heads off more than 180 public parking meters, and confiscated 204 parking spaces.

The future looks no better. When architect Shalom Baranes is asked to design a new building in Washington these days, he says there's really only one concern.

"Basically control," said Barnes. "Controlling traffic, controlling loading, controlling serving, controlling the public, controlling visitors and controlling employees."


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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