Intense security surrounds Reagan

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House reporter

WASHINGTON -- Recent incidents of suicide terrorist attacks in the Middle East have led to extraordinary security measures at the White House and wherever President Reagan travels.

Sources confirm anti-aircraft missiles are part of the defensive arsenals at the White House, where new concrete barriers have been built to prevent the kind of suicide truck bombings that have occurred in Lebanon and Kuwait.


The barriers leading to the back gates of the executive mansion have been enhanced aesthetically with plantings. White House counselor Edwin Meese predicted, 'You are going to see them for a long time.'

Every new form of protection that has been instituted at the executive mansion over the years has seemed to stay permanently.

While Reagan was vacationing in California last August, new, stronger White House gates were built and metal detectors were installed in the guardhouse at the entrance to the West Wing, where presidential offices are located.

Guests invited to White House parties must also go through the airport-style megatometers and women's purses are inspected.

More recently a White House order went out for vehicles, often carrying heavy television equipment, to be checked by bomb-sniffing dogs.


Food brought into the White House is X-rayed, as mail and packages have been for many years, and passes are now scrutinized with extra care.

The White House cannot yet be described as a fortress, but there is no question Reagan's activities are severely curtailed by increasing security needs.

Presidents have traditionally lighted the national Christmas tree each year and broadcast a brief holiday message. But security precautions have blocked Reagan from attending the open air event in the evening in the park in back of the White House.

On Thursday, for the third year in a row, Reagan will press a button to light the tree from inside the White House.

Car bombs went off Monday in Kuwait, including a booby-trapped Mercedes-Benz truck that crashed into the U.S. Embassy compound, seeming to lend credence to Reagan's recent warning that 1,000 'kamikaze' terrorists are prepared to make suicide-bombing attacks.

The attack was similar to the bombing of the Beirut Marine barracks Oct. 23 that caused 240 U.S. deaths.

Sources confirmed that ground-to-air missiles such as the shoulder-fired heat-seeking Stingers or Redeyes are part of the protective arsenal for the White House. The weapons could be launched from the roof of the White House or the next door Executive Office building.


White House air space is sacrosanct, and aircraft are monitored from nearby National Airport across the Potomac River.

President Kennedy's assassination in 1963 led to greater secrecy for presidential movements. Motorcade routes through big cities now are routinely kept secret. Oftentimes, the whole police force of a city or town is on duty to protect the president, sometimes a costly appearance for the local citizens.

The attempt on Reagan's life outside a Washington hotel in 1981 led to other innovations, including a swat squad of sharpshooters in the motorcade, decoy limousines and a blackout of his public schedule.

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