First, the good news: The Pentagon, a past target of Al Qaeda terrArabism, is still open for public tours.
Americans can still observe–if only during a limited, guided tour–how the men and women of the United States military “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Now, the bad news: Some of the security measures at the Pentagon are as absurd as those found at most local, State and Federal buildings.
Consider this memo from the Public Affairs Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, dated February 2, 2012:
MEMORANDUM FOR Tour Requestors
FROM: Pentagon Tour Office
SUBJECT: Security Measures
The following guidelines must be adhered to when taking a tour of the Pentagon to ensure everyone’s safety and security.
- Tour groups should arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour to provide enough time to be cleared through Pentagon security. Have your confirmation letter available to show the Pentagon Police upon arrival at the Pentagon’s Metro entrance. Once cleared, groups will check in at the Pentagon Tours window located inside the visitor’s center 15 minutes before the scheduled tour start time. Groups that fail to check-in at the scheduled time will have their tour cancelled.
- Persons participating in a Pentagon Tour will not be allowed to bring weapons of any sort (i.e. guns, knives, box cutter, mace, pepper spray, etc.) or inside the building: weapons of any sort or large bags (i.e. knapsacks, camera bags, backpacks and shopping bags, etc.) into the Pentagon. Purses are permitted but are subject to search if brought into the Pentagon.
- Electronic devices such as cellular telephones, mobile e-mail and smartphone devices (Blackberry, iPhone), cameras (still, digital or video), PDAs, laptop and tablet computers, and tobacco products may not be used while participating in a Pentagon Tour. Additionally, eating and drinking are prohibited while on the tour. You are encouraged to not bring these items inside the building as it will slow processing into the building.
- Proper personal identification (ID) must be produced when requested by Pentagon Police prior to entering the Pentagon as follows.
- Ages 12 and under – ID not required.
- Ages 13 to 17 – One form of photo ID or a parent/guardian to vouch for them.
- Ages 18 and up – Two forms of ID: one form must be a government issued photo ID, the other may be a credit/debit card, U.S. passport, birth certificate, or another item with the individual’s name printed on it, excluding business cards.
Please contact Pentagon Force Protection Agency directly at (703) 697-1001 if you have questions regarding what constitutes acceptable forms of ID.
Director, Pentagon Tour Program
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OK, let’s examine these requirements one-by-one.
Number One: “Tour groups should arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour to provide enough time to be cleared through Pentagon security. Have your confirmation letter available to show the Pentagon Police upon arrival at the Pentagon’s Metro entrance.”
This makes sense, becuse it takes time for people to go through metal detectors and show various forms of ID to security guards.
Number Two: “Persons participating in a Pentagon Tour will not be allowed to bring weapons of any sort….into the Pentagon.”
Again, this is just basic common sense. The military have more than enough weapons of their own–and they want to be certain that only they have access to them. And having been the targets of a massive terrArabist attack on 9/11, those who work at the Pentagon don’t want to risk being the targets of smaller attacks, either.
Number Three: “Electronic devices….and tobacco products may not be used while participating in a Pentagon Tour. Additionally, eating and drinking are prohibited while on the tour.”
Once again, this is intelligent security. The Pentagon is crammed with sophisticated electronic equipment–much of it for keeping track of United States military forces positioned throughout the world. Its officials don’t want any of this–nor the faces of those who work there–captured on cameras. The same holds true for cell phones and computers.
As for banning eating, drinking and using tobacco products: The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building by floor area, with about 6,500,000 sq ft. This translates into about 600,000 miles, of which 3,700,000 sq ft (340,000 miles) are used as offices. About 23,000 military and civilian employees and 3,000 non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon.
So it makes sense to not have people scattering pieces of their various sandwiches, candies, potato chips and other snacks all over the building. That’s why the Pentagon has over 20 of its own fast food operations, including Subway, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panda Express and Starbucks–for its employees.
And even though grizzled officers still order their men to “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em”–that’s only in old movies. The Pentagon–like all other Federal buildings–is off-limits to smokers.
Having reached the limits of intelligent security, we will next explore its opposite.