As security chieftains increasingly get their way, this is increasingly what Washington looks like today stark, set-back and suspicious. And U.S. Commissioner of Public Buildings Bob Peck fears a dangerous new trend: every time the government builds a new building here, retailers and residents will flee.
"What I think could happen in Washington, we could shut down a major area of our city to anything that looks like city life," Peck says. "And this is a city on the rebound and having a real renaissance, and I think we could choke it off."
And future building projects do little to dispel that fortress-like feeling. At the White House, what started as an expanded visitors' center has turned into a massive subterranean project stretching from the ellipse to Pennsylvania Avenue moving offices and even a new first family recreation room underground.
Something similar is planned on Capitol Hill. A massive dig will burrow underneath the esplanade on the east end. Tourists will be herded underground and then into the capitol itself. It started as a visitors' center, says former New York Sen. Patrick Moynihan.
"But then the idea that, 'Hey, this could be a good security measure' came along - and, increasingly, it is just that," he says.
Washington, of course, has ample reason for concern. It is a magnet for the disaffected and insane, as well as terrorists. Security chiefs should make no apologies, says former FBI counter-terrorism chief Bob Blitzer.
"We saw it up on the hill with the guy that walked in and shot up the capitol," Blitzer says. "We've seen the White House sprayed with rifle fire. I mean, look, these things have an effect."
And so do their consequences, says Moynihan, who mourns what is happening to the most powerful city on earth perhaps more than anyone else.
"It's time for a president and a Congress to say to the Secret Service, 'enough!' And to say to our very good friends in the FBI, 'Look, show an example, set an example, show that you're not afraid!'" he says.
But one by one, federal agencies are leaving Washington, headed for the suburbs. The fact of the matter is, some privately admit, they are afraid, and they just don't feel safe here any longer.
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