Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tight security in Rome, really?

Tight security in Rome after the Ottawa tragedy?

I took these pics on Monday.  After the Ottawa tragedy and the death of the poor Canadian soldier at the War Memorial, many around the world began asking themselves, “But could this happen to us”?

The monument is located in central Rome, the “Vittoriano” which is also known as the “Nation’s Alter” (they say that all distances from Rome are taken from this monument).  It’s also called, by Anglophones, the “Upside Wedding Cake” or “Typewriter”.  It contains the remains of the Unknown Soldier, a sacred place just as much as the War Memorial in Ottawa.

But is security tight after that terrorist attack? Not really:  you can climb right up to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier which is guarded day and night by two Italian soldiers.  There’s a chain-linked fence, if you can call it that, which doesn’t really protect the two soldiers from would-be assassins or lunatics that want to take a swing at them (or also damage the tomb).  

And security at the entrance of the tomb? A bit of a joke, with a Carabinieri van parked in front (it wasn’t there though on Tuesday when I went by at around 11 am) and with two Carabinieri officers who have much better things to do than to watch over the tomb's entrance, such as checking their cell phones for messages and/or Facebook postings!

(checking the latest soccer results?)

But the “security” doesn’t end there: on November 13th, 2014 at around noon I went to the Vatican to see the necropolis which lies under St. Peter’s Basilica.  I was told to go to a gate (on the left, facing the Basilica).  There at the gate were two Swiss Guards.  They told me that I could only enter the necropolis thru a prior reservation.  I asked them where to go to make the reservation?  They indicated another gate, but inside the Vatican grounds.  Before doing that though, they told me to go to the nearby police van, about 20 meters away from them, to pass the “security” check.  I went, and there was an Italian police officer with a small portable metal detector.  I had with me a small bag with inside a small digital camera and a flash.  He asked me what I had inside, and I pulled the camera out and then said “I also have a small flash…”, which he didn’t even bother looking at.  Nor did he “wand” me with his metal detector, nor did he check if I had a cell phone (you can’t get in as a visitor with a cell phone at the U.S. Embassy in Rome), nor did he bother checking my other pockets. 

I then went back to the Swiss Guards, and with no special pass from the police officer, I walked some 300 meters to the ticket office where one can make a reservation for the necropolis.  Along the way there were Vatican police officers, but no one bothered stopping me nor asking me where I was going (I only spoke to one asking where the ticket office was).  Along the way I saw a small German cemetery inside the Vatican walls.  I could have even wondered off to the “Sala Nervi”, where Pope Francis also holds his weekly audiences (when the weather is poor).  Had I left home with a few of my press passes around my neck, I could have easily walked around the Vatican and I could have quite easily placed a small radio-controlled explosive device either inside the “Sala Nervi” or inside the cemetery, or even inside the ticket office (there was a foreign couple in front of me making their reservations for the necropolis).

This happened in an area which (apparently) has the 4th best secret service in the world!

No comments: