CBSN

Report: National Monuments At Risk

Abraham Lincoln statue within Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, photo 1995/10/16
AP
A counter-terrorism report commissioned by the U.S. National Park Service concluded many of Washington's major monuments and memorials were vulnerable to terrorist attack and needed better security.

CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan reports that authors of the study were most concerned about the vulnerability of nine landmarks that attract large numbers of tourists daily -- including the newly refurbished Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The Washington Post says the 200-page security assessment cites several examples of how terrorists could easily destroy national monuments and create mayhem similar to that caused by the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

U.S. Park Police officials are quoted as saying that visitors should feel safe going to the National Mall for special events such as Tuesday's Independence Day celebrations. Many of Washington's best known monuments are located on or near the Mall.


AP
The Jefferson Memorial.

"We've taken steps to ensure safety measures are in place to take care of any situation that may occur," Park Police Sgt. Rob MacLean told the Post.

The counter-terrorism study reportly draws a direct correlation between the security threat to the memorials and the funding of the U.S. Park Police.

According to the Post, the report, called the National Park Service: Strategic Counter-terrorism Plan, says the federal law enforcement agency is understaffed and poorly funded.

Another problem is a 20-year-old communications system that is not secure. During the World Bank and International Monetary Fund protests, their radios often were jammed with interference, and official suspect the protesters were jamming the Park Police frequencies.

The study reportly recommends "a one-time expenditure of $3 million to bring eight of the monuments up to security standards."


AP
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Many of the security shortcoming cited in the report concern lack of manpower, safety procedures and poor communications equipment, the Post reported.

The U.S. Secret Service and the FBI would not omment on the readiness of the Park Police or other law enforcement agencies patrolling Washington. However, two counter-terrorism experts noted that the city was under the protection of several police agencies and that the U.S. Park Police, while vital, did not act alone, the Post said.

In 1982, the Washington Monument was seized by a man who drove a truck he said was filled with dynamite to the entrance. Before being shot and killed by the Park Police, he said he'd chosen the monument because "it's one of the sacred icons and it's accessible."

There was no dynamite in the truck.

No one wants to wall off Washington, D.C., and all its monuments, memorials and museums. Tourism is the city's second-largest industry (after government, and ahead of the press that covers government). And one expert says officials must strike a balance.

"I think that we have an obsession akin to creating a risk-free society, and it's just impossible to have," said Bruce Hoffman, a Washington-based counter-terrorism expert at the Rand Corp., a non-profit public policy institute.

"Of course [the monuments] are vulnerable. But everything is vulnerable," he said. "It comes to a point where you have to accept that we can't have a risk-free society."

©2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Reuters Limited contributed to this report