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Report: Man who flew drone over White House lawn had been drinking

The White House grounds, early on January 26, 2015.
The White House grounds, early on January 26, 2015.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

  1. A small drone flew onto the White House grounds and crashed shortly after 3 AM Monday morning. It was unarmed and immediately discovered, according to multiple reports. Officials have said that it posed no threat.
  2. The drone was a commercially available, two foot long quadcopter that is controlled remotely. A Secret Service agent saw it fly onto the grounds at low altitude and then crash into a tree. A lockdown of the area was ordered. (President Obama is currently overseas.)
  3. The device was controlled by an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency who had been drinking, the New York Times' Michael Shear and Michael Schmidt reported. He told the Secret Service that he was flying the drone recreationally and lost control of it. In a statement, the NGA said the employee was off-duty and that his work does not involve drones.

A disturbing security breach


The device that crashed into a tree on the White House grounds. (Photo: Secret Service)

The term "drone" may call to mind the weaponized devices used so often by the Obama administration in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. But the drone flown onto the White House grounds is a much smaller, unarmed device that is sold in stores (and was commonly given as a holiday gift this year). Security agencies will have to grapple with the spread of these devices.

While no one was harmed in this incident, it's the latest indication that the White House perimeter isn't as secure as many think. Last September, a man jumped the White House fence and ran into the East Room with a knife before the Secret Service stopped him — a scandal that led to the resignation of the agency's director, Julia Pierson.

This post has been updated to reflect new developments.

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