A labyrinth of underground passages, some of which date back hundreds of years, connects key buildings beneath Washington.
An aerial shot of the US Capitol during a major underground expansion project, which including new tunnels, in and out of the building, in 2004.ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL SHARE Even before this week's unprecedented siege of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump, which you can read about in the War Zone's rolling coverage of the events as they unfolded, there were ominous indicators of what was to come. This included the discovery of pipe bombs in the vicinity of nearby Congressional office buildings earlier in the day, which had prompted evacuations, at least in part through underground tunnels. When the Capitol itself was breached, members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence, among others, were also ushered to safety via subterranean passageways.
These incidents highlighted the large tunnel network that lies under Capitol Hill, as well as other underground links throughout Washington, D.C. Many of these are used on a day-to-day basis just to conveniently get between government buildings without going outside, but, as was shown yesterday, they also have a clear value in helping people escape to safety during a crisis. Legislators had already been advised to make increased use of them on Jan. 6, simply to avoid encountering pro-Trump protesters.
AP PHOTO/ANDREW HARNIK People evacuate from the House Camber as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
When the first reports emerged of the evacuation of the Cannon House Office Building, as well as the Library of Congress' James Madison Memorial Building, all of which are situated to the immediate southeast of the U.S. Capitol, the reasons were not immediately clear. While the focus of the worlds attention was on the crowds of Trump supporters preparing to storm the Capitol, the U.S. Capitol Police alerted the occupants of Cannon to the threat.
Without mentioning the specifics of the improvised explosive devices (IED), the Capitol Police urged the occupants of Cannon to remain calm and move in a safe manner to the exits, due to police activity, according to NBC Washington. Another message called upon the staffers to close doors behind you but do not lock.
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Poster note: Speculation at the time was Vince Foster was murdered at the White House and the tunnels were used to remove his body to Ft. Marcy Park.