On 21 Jan 2017, the White House called a press conference where the press secretary accused the media of "deliberately false reporting" on two issues of which the number of people attending President Trump's inauguration was one. The use of additional fencing and magnetometers on the National Mall on the day of the inauguration was one of the pieces of evidence which the press secretary raised.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said:

This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.

Source: "Sean Spicer held a press conference. He didn’t take questions. Or tell the whole truth", Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, 21 Jan 2017

CNN's Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta says on Twitter that this is incorrect:

A USSS spokesperson tells us no magnetometers were used on the National Mall for Trump's inauguration.

Source: Jim Acosta, Twitter, 4:47 PM - 21 Jan 2017

Were additional fencing and magnetometers (or other types of metal detectors) used on the National Mall for Trump's inauguration, compared to past inaugurations?

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    Also see Michael Schmidt (New York Times): "According to two senior law enforcement officials, magnetometers WERE NOT USED in the areas Spicer said they were on the Mall."
    – ff524
    Jan 22, 2017 at 10:38
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    And ABC: "The Secret Service says that this was the first time security fencing was installed around the National Mall for an inauguration. To get onto the Mall, people were required to go through one of seven checkpoints where their bags were checked, but there were no magnetometers used at those checkpoints."
    – ff524
    Jan 22, 2017 at 10:39
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    Meanwhile, someone named Gay Patriot says he heard from a confirmation official "that there WERE magnetometers used at the Mall", and DC Dude heard from a "friend" who said he "went through magnetometers on the Mall"
    – ff524
    Jan 22, 2017 at 10:46
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    Other person on twitter says: "I got onto the National Mall for the Inauguration without going through a magnetometer. Magnetometers were used for parade route access"
    – ff524
    Jan 22, 2017 at 10:47
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    This source agrees that magnetometers were used for entry to parade route. This Secret Service map shows parade route entry points. The parade route checkpoints are in almost exactly the same locations as in 2013 (one moved slightly farther away from the Mall).
    – ff524
    Jan 22, 2017 at 11:01

2 Answers 2


@ff524 found the 2017 parade route, 2013 parade route, 2017 ticketed users, and 2013 ticketed users access points. The 2013 ticketed users screening location was in the same place as in 2017 and had magnetometers both years. @DavePhd found Congressman John Carter's inauguration page which says, "Security requires ticket holders to arrive at least a couple of hours early, carrying no seats, camera bags or other large bags. You will be required to enter through metal detectors". So Acosta's statement is simply incorrect. The portion of the Mall which was ticketed did have security screening.

The 2017 parade route shows that the National Mall had limited entry points in 2017. That does not answer the question of whether or not magnetometers were in use at those entry points in this year or 2013. Other sources suggest that they were not.

The actual parade route (not on the Mall) had essentially the same security screening in both 2013 and 2017. This does not affect the truthfulness of either statement though, as it had nothing to do with screening for the Mall.

@ff524 found an ABC News story which says

The Secret Service says that this was the first time security fencing was installed around the National Mall for an inauguration.

However, there are at least two factual inaccuracies elsewhere in their story, so take that with a grain of salt. If believed, this would confirm Spicer's assertion that there was more fencing in 2017 than 2013. However, the same story contradicts the assertion that there were more magnetometers. Unfortunately, it does so in a factually inaccurate way:

To get onto the Mall, people were required to go through one of seven checkpoints where their bags were checked, but there were no magnetometers used at those checkpoints.

But we already know that the ticketed portion of the Mall had magnetometers. The conflict may be as simple as a missing 'the non-ticketed portion of' the Mall. Or there may be a more serious problem with that story.

If we include the Washington Monument as part of the Mall, then the parade route PDF confirms the seven checkpoints to the non-ticketed portion of the Mall. Note that that does not include the eighth checkpoint for the ticketed portion of the Mall, which is shown in the ticketed users PDF.

If we believe the basic thrust of the ABC News story, Spicer was half right. There was more fencing but no more magnetometer locations.

  • Also for completeness, you might want to mention that the access points for parade route (red circles on map) did reportedly have magnetometers in 2013 and 2017.
    – ff524
    Jan 24, 2017 at 5:55
  • The ABC quote about "people were required to go through one of seven checkpoints" does seem to refer to the non-ticketed portion of the mall, as there are seven labeled "National Mall Access Points" in the official Secret Service map, for access to the non-ticketed portion of the mall. (If the Secret Service refers to them as "National Mall Access Points" in the map and other documents, it's easy to see how SS would say and/or press would hear that those access points were "to get onto the Mall".) So it doesn't seem like a more serious problem than that.
    – ff524
    Jan 24, 2017 at 6:13
  • Just because the congressman's website said there would be metal detectors is not proof that there would be. I'm not saying who is right or wrong, just logically that doesn't seem to add anything to the answer.
    – corsiKa
    Jan 24, 2017 at 19:10

This student newspaper, The Miami Hurricane suggests there were metal detectors that slowed the crowd:

Some attributed the long wait to the slow security checks – full bag checks and only two metal detectors for thousands of people.

“I get there’s only two working machines and they want to be as safe as possible, but we are moving 10 feet an hour,” said Jacob Thomas, 47, from Tallahassee, Fla. “I would try my luck at another checkpoint, but I have already waited two hours.”

The entrance, manned by the Secret Service, Transport Security Administration and Military Police, also had a group of protesters causing an obstruction.

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    The question isn't whether there were metal detectors (it is clear that there were metal detectors at some checkpoints, such as those for parade route and for entry for ticketed users), but whether they were more "far back on the Mall" than they had been in previous inaugurations.
    – ff524
    Jan 23, 2017 at 23:55
  • @ff524: To be fair, Acosta denied even that. (I assume "magnetometer" = "metal-detector". This is a term I haven't heard before.)
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 24, 2017 at 0:21
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    @Oddthinking Acosta denies that they were used "on the Mall". Security checkpoints for parade route and ticketed users don't look like they are "on the Mall".
    – ff524
    Jan 24, 2017 at 0:23
  • @ff524 Your ticketed users PDF shows Silver Ticket Screening for the "Mall Standing Area" between 3rd and 4th. The screening may not have been "on the Mall", but it still restricted access to the Mall. Or at least part of it.
    – Brythan
    Jan 24, 2017 at 3:06
  • @Brythan Certainly it could have restricted access; but as I mentioned above, the claim is about whether they were more "far back on the Mall" than they had been in previous inaugurations. That checkpoint was in the same location as in 2013.
    – ff524
    Jan 24, 2017 at 3:14

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