The latest security breach on the grounds of the White House has Washington buzzing yet again about safety concerns at one of the world’s most recognisable buildings.
Early on Monday morning, the US Secret Service – the police in charge of protecting the White House and the president – noticed “a ‘quad copter’ device, approximately two feet in diameter, flying at a very low altitude” on the south side of the White House.
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It made it to the building, then crashed, according to the Secret Service.
No one was hurt.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are currently travelling in India.
It’s unclear who was operating the device [some are calling it a “drone” while others are calling it a “toy”] while police continue to investigate.
Still, this comes just four months after a man jumped over the north fence and made it all the way through the front door of the White House before he was tackled and arrested.
That incident, and other similar breaches, led to the resignation of Julia Pierson as Secret Service director.
That also led to a new security fence around the north perimeter.
Robert Grenier, former director of the CIA’s counterterrorism centre, tells DC Dispatches the latest incident “may be a harbinger of things to come”.
Even though the US dominates in drone technology, the day may arrive when “the erstwhile hunter becomes the hunted”.
But another security analyst says it’s not yet time to hit the panic button. After all, notes Christopher Swift of Georgetown University, technology that allows objects to fly remotely has been around for decades.
“An actual plane flew into the White House,” says Swift, referring to a 1994 incident where a disgruntled Maryland lorry driver stole a Cessna, then crashed it on White House grounds.
“People are going to test the limits and when it comes to the president. They always have,” he says.
The only way to prevent these types of breaches, he says, is by maintaining good relations with communities and “by good old-fashioned police work”.