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Secret Service restricts public access to southern fence of White House after recent intruder

President Trump praised the Secret Service for apprehending a man who got onto the White House grounds after climbing a fence. (Video: The Washington Post)
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The U.S. Secret Service said it plans to further restrict public access to areas around the White House, a decision officials announced a month after a man carrying mace scaled the White House fence and was able to roam the grounds.

These new restrictions, which prohibit access to a sidewalk alongside the White House’s southern fence-line, are relatively limited, but they come as the Secret Service has faced critical questions following that incident.

The Secret Service said the changes were part of a review of security measures at the White House and its surrounding grounds. The agency did not directly mention the fence-jumper in March as a motivation, but they said the new restrictions may help deter similar attempts in the future.

“Restricting public access to the fence line will not only serve to lessen the possibility of individuals illegally accessing the White House grounds, but will also create a clear visual break to enable Secret Service officers to identify and respond to potential hazards including individuals attempting to scale the fence,” Cathy Milhoan, an agency spokeswoman, said in a statement.

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The changes, which were first reported by USA Today, go into effect Wednesday at 11 p.m. Members of the public will not be allowed to access the sidewalks, roadways and other area between the southern fence line and E Street NW between West Executive Avenue and East Executive Avenue.

The Secret Service, in a statement detailing these plans, said these new restrictions would not keep the public from being able to see the White House, and added that similar restrictions have already been in place overnight, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., since 2015.

“The Secret Service must continually evaluate security protocols and continually balance the security of our protected persons and facilities with the public’s ability to access them,” Milhoan said.

During the March 10 episode, a California man named Jonathan T. Tran scaled the fence and roamed the White House grounds for nearly 17 minutes before he was arrested.

While this was believed to be the first fence-jumper since President Trump took office, it has prompted criticism of the Secret Service that echoed breaches during former president Barack Obama’s time in office and prompted the resignation of the embattled agency’s director in 2014.

Calif. man carrying Mace arrested on White House grounds after scaling fence

Last year, the Secret Service added small spikes atop the six-foot fence that surrounds the White House complex. In addition, the agency has announced plans to raise the height of the fence and make it “tougher, taller and stronger,” as a spokeswoman put it last year.

Access to the White House grounds is tightly secured. The Trump administration recently said that it would keep White House visitor logs secret, a reversal from the Obama years.

The White House has long been an attraction for tourists and demonstrators, though the specific security outside the building and its grounds have shifted over the years.

After the Oklahoma City bombings, which occurred 22 years ago Wednesday, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue NW in front of the White House was closed to traffic, preventing tourists and Washington commuters from being able to drive by the presidential residence. An advisory committee had recommended closing the street after security breaches that included a man firing a rifle into the building from the sidewalk and a small plane crashing on the grounds.

The stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue remains closed to drivers.

Over the years, the Secret Service has also had to deal with a steady stream of people jumping the fence or attempting to do so, as well as others who have thrown items over the fence. In many cases, such episodes have prompted lockdowns of the White House and closed surrounding downtown streets. After the March 10 episode, other people were arrested after climbing barriers or fences near the White House, including one woman who attempted such a climb Sunday afternoon.

Since Trump’s election, the agency has been straining to respond to the unusually complicated logistical and financial reality of protecting the Trump family, which includes a president who regularly shuttles between Washington and South Florida, adult children with business interests around the world and a first lady who lives, with Trump’s youngest son, at their private residence in New York. Internal agency documents show that the Secret Service has asked for $60 million in additional funding.