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Drone-Like Device Puts White House On Lockdown

This small unmanned aerial vehicle was spotted flying near the White House.
US Secret Service
This small unmanned aerial vehicle was spotted flying near the White House.

It's red and black and not much larger than a brick.

But the unmanned flying device, that looked more like a toy than a drone, was a big enough problem to put the White House, executive mansion and surrounding area on lock down for about an hour while it was checked out.

The small "unmanned aerial vehicle" was spotted flying 100 feet above Lafayette Park at lunchtime Thursday afternoon, according to the U.S. Secret Service. The park is right across the street from the White House.

"An individual was detained by USSS Officers and instructed to land the small UAV," reads a statement from the Secret Service. "The individual complied and the small UAV was recovered in Lafayette Park."

Then, as a precaution, the device was swept by police and declared safe. The president was not at the White House at the time.

"The individual was turned over to the custody of the U.S. Park Police," the statement continues.

There was no word on whether the individual was an adult with bad intentions or a 10-year-old boy with an iPad.

Back in January, a larger "quad-copter" crashed on the White House lawn. In that case, the pilot was a government employee who had been drinking and lost control of the craft.

At around the time the drama was unfolding at the White House Thursday, up on Capitol Hill, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was beginning a hearing into a March incident where a Secret Service agent, who at the end of an evening of drinking, drove into an active suspicious package investigation scene.

Here's the full inspector general's report, which includes such gems as a rundown of the agent's bar tab:

/ IG's report
IG's report

It's enough to make George Thorogood blush. And this description of the agent driving around a barricade:

/ IG's report
IG's report

In a joint statement the committee's chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said the Secret Service needs a major cultural overhaul:

Having reviewed the IG's report, we continue to believe that a major cultural overhaul is essential to restoring the Secret Service to its former stature. It is sadly revealing that the watch commander felt it would be a 'career killer' for him to administer a field sobriety test to a higher ranking agent, especially given concerns within the agency about potential retaliation for reporting misconduct. These are signs of a dysfunctional environment that must change.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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