President Obama has come under fierce criticism over his stepped-up use of drone attacks, even drawing criticism from kill-crazy Republicans, but sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, the tables were turned, and a drone made its way through White House air space and onto the grounds. The Secret Service discovered the device, described as a remote controlled quadcopter, sometime overnight.
At a briefing in New Delhi, India early Monday morning (Eastern time), White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about the drone. Toward the beginning of the briefing, Earnest said that he hadn’t been informed about reports of the discovery, but at the end, got caught up a little:
“There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service at the White House. Early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat right now to anybody at the White House. But as the Secret Service has more information about their investigation about what they’ve been able to learn about this they’ll share more information on this.”
The president and the first lady, of course, are currently in the middle of a trip to India, to be followed by a stop in Saudi Arabia, but the whereabouts of the first daughters when the discovery was made is currently unknown. Although no one was hurt, given the recent revelations about security lapses on the White House grounds, the news is disturbing nonetheless. It is a bit sensational to call what is essentially a Radio Shack toy the same thing you would call an aircraft that literally unleashes hellfire, but even a small device could potentially pose a threat. Hell, it really only needs to be able to carry underwear. A breach like this could also inspire more ambitious, less benign imitators.
Equally disturbing, though, is the fact that when this White House briefing began, at about 4 am Eastern time, the White House Press Secretary didn’t even know about the discovery, and was hearing about it from reporters. The Secret Service, under the direction of now-departed Director Julia Pierson, appears to have heavily filtered the information it gave to the White House regarding threats to its occupants, and this episode hints at more of the same. If the Secret Service is more concerned with getting its story straight than protecting the White House, that’s a problem.
Update: The Associated Press reports that a man has claimed credit for this act of recreation:
A man has come forward to say he was responsible for the drone that crashed early Monday on the White House grounds.
A U.S. official says the man made contact with the Secret Service after reports of the crash spread in the media. The man told the Secret Service that he was using the drone recreationally and didn’t mean to fly it over the White House.