Congressman says he’s consulted with Israel about US Capitol security

Rep. Tim Ryan, who helps oversee security of Congress, says he spoke with Israeli officials about Knesset measures, after ramming attack kills Capitol Police officer

Troops stand guard near the scene of a car that crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Troops stand guard near the scene of a car that crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A US House Representative who helps oversee security at the Capitol said Friday he had consulted with Israeli security officials to learn how they keep the government secure, after an attack on the Capitol killed a police officer.

Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, chairman of a House spending committee that oversees security and the Capitol, spoke to Fox News following the ramming attack on a barricade at the complex.

His committee and others are looking at not only fencing around the complex but at the staffing, structure, and intelligence capabilities of the Capitol Police.

“We had a call with the Knesset last week,” Ryan said Friday, “trying to see what do they do in Israel, around the Knesset, and is there something that we can learn from them.”

Jaime Herrera Beutler, ranking member of the committee, was also on the call, he said.

Israeli authorities stepped up security around the Knesset for elections last month, after the January 6 mob assault on the US Capitol sparked fears of similar violence in Jerusalem.

Capitol Police officer William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force, was killed Friday when a man rammed his car into a barrier outside the Senate side of the building. The driver, identified as 25-year-old Noah Green, was shot and killed after he got out of his car and lunged at police with a knife.

The deadly breach of the Capitol’s perimeter could delay the gradual reopening of the building’s grounds to the public just as lawmakers were eyeing a return to more normal security measures following the January 6 insurrection.

Their deaths came less than two weeks after the Capitol Police removed an outer fence that had cut off a wide swath of the area to cars and pedestrians, in an effort to secure the complex after thousands of then-president Donald Trump’s supporters had marched on the building January 6, as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. About 800 of those loyalists broke inside the Capitol, and five people died in the siege, including a Capitol Police officer.

Police have left an inner fencing perimeter intact. The tall, dark fencing — parts of it covered in razor wire until recently — had blocked major arteries that cross the city and was a stark symbol of the fear many in the Capitol felt. Lawmakers said the seat of American democracy was meant to be open to the people, even if there was always going to be a threat.

US Capitol Police officers stand near a car that crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 2, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

But after Friday’s attack, lawmakers said they needed to proceed with caution.

“It’s an eyesore, it sucks,” Ryan said about the fencing in the hours after the two deaths. “Nobody wants that there. But the question is, is the environment safe enough to be able to take it down? In the meantime, maybe that fence can prevent some of these things from happening.”

Ryan stressed that no decisions had been made, and that lawmakers would be “reviewing everything.”

“The scab got ripped off again here today,” Ryan said. “So we’ve got to figure this out.”

The breach happened inside the perimeter. The driver slipped through a gate that had opened to allow traffic in and out of the Capitol and rammed a barrier that had protected the building long before January 6. There was no evidence that Green’s actions were in any way related to the insurrection.

Police and fire officials stand near a car that crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 2, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Still, it was a reminder that there is always a target on one of the country’s most visible public buildings, especially after the public attention over the broad security failures three months ago.

While lawmakers were initially supportive of the fencing to secure the area, and the thousands of National Guard troops sent to the Capitol to back up the overwhelmed police force, they soon said they were ready for a drawdown.

“I think we’ve overdone it,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky last month. “It looks terrible to have the beacon of our democracy surrounded by razor wire and National Guard troops.“

Security officials, though, say that the Capitol cannot return to what had been status quo.

In February, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told lawmakers that “the Capitol’s security infrastructure must change.”

A security review requested by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, in the aftermath of the riot and conducted by a task force recommended eventually replacing the barrier with mobile fencing and “an integrated, retractable fencing system” that could be used as needed. It is unclear whether such an expensive proposal could win approval from Congress.

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