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U.S. Capitol getting security overhaul

Protecting the 'people's house'

Protecting the 'people's house'

By Kate Snow
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Every one of the windows in the United States Capitol and its surrounding office buildings is getting blast-resistant protection following the September 11 terror attacks, an estimated $12 million project.

Teams of workers Thursday began taking measurements to layer the inside of the windows with a Mylar shatter-resistant coating similar to that on car windshields.

Blast-resistant windows protected many workers at the Pentagon from flying glass, according to House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio.

"That coating would reduce -- in the event of some type of dramatic event at the Capitol, some type of explosion -- would reduce the amount of glass fragments and therefore save lives," Ney said in an interview with CNN.

In the days following the attacks, guards were placed in front of two large air intake ducts that provide the main external air supply to the Capitol building, sources have told CNN. Security experts feared someone might be able to release a biological agent into the air stream that flows into the building, sources said.

The retrofitting is one but one job in a much larger project to better protect visitors, lawmakers and staff at the Capitol, officials say.

Ney said $86 million is being spent on improvements, including better communications systems, overtime for Capitol Police officers, and interior and exterior security enhancements. That money came out of the $40 billion emergency spending bill Congress passed shortly after the attacks.

"We're not going to put a wall around the Capitol," Ney said. "We're going to have perimeter security. We're going to have certain streets that have been blocked and certain ones that are open. But we want a free flow of people into this Capitol with people doing tours, doing the things that people need to do in the people's house in the Congress."

A limited number of small group tours are being allowed at the Capitol. The groups will eventually get larger and that authorities are not denying anyone access to "the people's house," Ney said.

There are no plans to close off Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue, two major arteries on either side of the Capitol building, Ney said.

The group reviewing security at the Capitol is also considering how many Capitol Police officers are needed to enhance security, and will almost certainly request additional personnel. The group is also reviewing whether the retirement age for police officers should be increased from the current age of 57.


• United States Capitol

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