NATION

Drone crashes at White House; its operator contacts Secret Service

Secret Service says authorities have recovered a drone on the grounds

The operator of a small drone that crashed on the White House grounds early Monday morning has acknowledged operating the device and is cooperating with Secret Service officials, according to a statement from the agency.

Secret Service officials questioned the individual after that person reached out to the agency on Monday to identify him or herself as the drone’s operator. 

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FOR THE RECORD:

CIA officer: In the Jan. 27 Section A, a photo caption misidentified former CIA officer Jeffrey A. Sterling, who was convicted of leaking classified information to a reporter. Sterling, above, is at left, with his wife, Holly. —
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The device was spotted by an officer posted on the south grounds of the White House just after 3 a.m. It was approximately 2 feet in diameter and flying very low, spokesman Brian Leary said in a statement released Monday morning. Leary described the device as a “quad copter,” typically a remote-controlled device that resembles a helicopter. The machine crashed on the southeast side of the White House grounds, he said.

“There was an immediate alert and lockdown of the complex until the device was examined and cleared. An investigation is underway to determine the origin of this commercially available device, motive and to identify suspects,” Leary said.

Asked about media reports on the device, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said earlier the device "doesn't pose any ongoing threat" to the Obama family. 

The incident is believed to have occurred as a result of recreational use of the device, according to the agency. 

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are traveling in India. Their daughters, Malia and Sasha, are at home with their grandmother.

Questions about the drone arose during a lengthy news conference about Obama's diplomatic talks with the Indian government and the president's trip later this week to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to pay respects to the family of the late King Abdullah.

In the middle of the news conference, Earnest said he didn't know about the reports on the device. However, after checking his BlackBerry at the end of the news conference, he confirmed that a device was recovered on the White House grounds.

A quad copter is a remote-controlled device lifted and propelled by four rotors and is widely sold on the Internet. Its prices vary from $25 to $3,000 and some can fly as high as 2,500 feet.

The Federal Aviation Administration has banned the use of commercial drones, though the agency is drafting proposed rules at the behest of Congress. However, a small number of companies – such as the film companies Aerial Mob and HeliVideo Productions -- do have exemptions from the FAA to use drones. 

This month the Secret Service removed four officials from key positions as the agency continues to deal with fallout from a series of security lapses.

The personnel moves came after a series of incidents last year that included a dramatic breach at the White House when a military veteran with a history of mental health problems hopped the fence and made it all the way into the residence.

For news about President Obama and the Obama administration, follow me on Twitter: @cparsons

 

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

1:09 p.m. This post has been updated with additional information. 

9:05 a.m.: This post has been updated with additional information on the quad copter drone. 

7 a.m.: This post was updated with comments from the Secret Service. 

6:46 a.m.: This post was updated to note requests for comment from the Secret Service. 

This post was originally published at 2:04 a.m. 

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