U.S. Capitol’s Conundrum, Security or Access?

Capitol Security

Reporting for Fox News, Chad Pegram wrote that earlier this week that the federal government filed a criminal complaint against Michael Hoyt charging him in a plot to poison House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) through his position as bartender at Boehner’s country club located north of Cincinnati.

In questioning by the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police, Hoyt said he could easily slipped something into Boehner’s drink at the club because Boehner had been “mean” to him in prior visits to the club – a charge Boehner denied in a statement during an interview with police.

Authorities were particularly worried about Hoyt because he was familiar with the speaker’s “travel and leisure habits” and was “unstable” according to a congressional source familiar with the investigation.

Then the second shoe dropped.

Chris Cornell of Ohio’s Green Township on the east side of Cincinnati was arrested this past week after purchasing two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles along with 600 rounds of ammunition. His intent? To go to Washington, plant and detonate pipe bombs around the Capitol and then use the rifles to shoot congressional members and aides as they evacuated the capitol.

Law enforcement was quick to add that the public was never in any danger.

In a message to congressional offices, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said that “with this arrest, we are again reminded that the United States, and especially the Capitol complex, remains a potential target for terrorists”.

The U.S. Capitol isn’t a fortress like the White House – a description brought into doubt following a series of fence-jumping incidents this past year that saw at least one trespasser to make it inside the White House through an unlocked door.

As Pegram writes, “anyone in the world can waltz up to the Capitol Visitor’s Center, go through the magnetometers and embark on a formal Capitol tour. No one will check your ID”… “no background check to get in. No questions. You just show up. And you can do that without so much as a query as to who you are, what your business is and why you’re there.”

That is the beauty – and vulnerability – of the Capitol.