Van Driver Creates 4-Hour Standoff Near White House

Driver’s Surrender Ends Standoff Near White House (WaPo, Jan. 19, A01)

Photo Police surround a van near the White House Tuesday. Threats by the driver, upset about a family matter, have sparked a police standoff. A man threatening to blow up his van waged a standoff with authorities a short distance from the White House yesterday [Tuesday], triggering the evacuation of several blocks of downtown on the first day of inaugural activities. The episode, which ended peacefully about four hours later, did not appear to be related to terrorism or the inauguration but instead to a family matter, authorities said. The muscular response — hundreds of officers, armored vehicles, snipers on rooftops, instant road closings — underscored the tight security that is so pervasive in Washington, especially this week.

Police said that they found “devices” that appeared to be hazardous in the van, and that bomb technicians were deactivating them last night. The White House remained open throughout the ordeal, but police swept through office buildings on 15th Street NW, evacuating many of them. An armored vehicle rode up and down 15th, and hazardous materials vehicles, ambulances and other emergency equipment took over the streets. At least three command vehicles were on the scene, which was being monitored by the Department of Homeland Security.

Commuters, already in store for a rough week because of the inauguration, were stuck as several critical downtown streets were closed at the beginning of rush hour. Backups extended for miles and dragged on for hours. Those who chose to leave their cars downtown in favor of Metro also got a shock: The platforms were overflowing.

That a distraught individual, presumably non-expert in the tradecraft of terrorism, managed to get this close to the White House and create a four hour standoff despite security being on near-peak alert is scary. It should not be surprising, however. The White House is in the heart of a congested metropolitan area. Providing perfect security for it is simply impossible. Providing even near-perfect security would come at a cost in incovenience that we’re simply not yet welling to pay.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Cybrludite says:

    Might even be a reason why he spends so much time down at Crawford…