Security tightened in wake of Hill shootings

With Capitol Hill still reeling from the loss of two Capitol Police officers in last Friday's shootings, the security presence around some congressional leaders has been beefed up even as others plan no changes.

Most notable among the changes is the presence of security around House Minority Whip David Bonior, D-Mich., who prior to last week eschewed any special protection.

Members of Congress have praised the Capitol Police for their professionalism and lauded Special Agent John Gibson for laying down his life to safeguard House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and his staff. Officer Jacob (J.J.) Chestnut was fatally shot while guarding the Capitol entrance next to DeLay's office.

Congress is reviewing Hill security in general, as well as the individual security arrangements of the leadership.

All members of the leadership of both parties are entitled to extra protection, although some, such as Bonior, have previously turned it down. A Capitol Police source refused to comment on any members' individual security, but did say "the level of protection for any particular member of the leadership is driven by threat assessment and information analysis. Certainly the activities of the last [week] have heightened everyone's attention" to ensuring members' safety.

Bonior's spokeswoman said that, at the recommendation of the House sergeant at arms, Bonior now has a plainclothes security detail and a uniformed officer posted outside his door in the heavily traveled third floor hallway that connects the House to the Senate. She added that Bonior's staff and others in nearby offices say they are "relieved" to see another officer up there.

But Bonior's Senate counterpart, Minority Whip Harold Ford, is still declining extra security. His spokesman said Ford feels safe enough with the security provided by the Capitol Police.

Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, R-Okla., who does have his own security, "is very happy with the arrangements he has" and does not plan to make any changes, according to his office.

The uniformed security outside the entrance to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's office, however, has become more vigilant in the aftermath of the shootings, keeping the hallway clear of anyone all the way up to the hall outside the Senate chamber. As for Lott's plainclothes detail, his spokesman would say only that "his personal security has been strong and will remain strong."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., as well as House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, both have another plainclothes agent for now and will reevaluate whether to continue after the August recess.

In addition, the security presence around both Lott and Daschle has become more visible, accompanying them for the first time this week when they addressed reporters after the weekly policy luncheons Tuesday. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who already has a large security detail, and DeLay do not plan any upgrades, according to their offices.

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