Updated 11:03 a.m.
Just weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Defense Department is adding unspecified security enhancements to public tours of the Pentagon, based on recommendations from its police force.
The change means visitors to the world’s largest government building may notice more stringent security screening once public tours resume in late October.
The Pentagon hosts roughly 100,000 visitors annually, and 19 tour guides usher between 400 and 600 per day through the building, according to an employee who works at the facility and asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.
But only 200 toured the building on Monday and 124 visited Tuesday, the employee said.
In late July, the Defense Department canceled public Pentagon tours and stopped accepting the general public’s requests for a visit on an official tour Web site, according to the employee. Pentagon workers could still make tour requests through a scheduling office, the employee added.
Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman, said Tuesday that “There are no plans to end public tours at the Pentagon,” but, he added, “We are adding some security enhancements.”
Whitman declined to elaborate on the security changes — and did not deny that the tour program had previously been suspended.
The changes followed revised security recommendations by the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, which urged officials to cancel public tours, the Pentagon employee said.
Though it is heavily protected, the Pentagon is still a frequent target of attacks, including the 9/11 crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the western side of the building.
In July, authorities charged a Marine Corps reservist with shooting at the Pentagon and other military installations in the Washington area. And in March 2010, three Pentagon police officers shot and killed a gunman who opened fire outside the building’s main visitor entrance. Following the shooting, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency fortified security screening at the site.
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