Drone Lands in Tree on White House Grounds: Official

Operator of the drone cooperating with authorities, the Secret Service said

A drone landed on the grounds of the White House Monday morning, but officials say the device posed no threat.

The operator of the drone has come forward and is cooperating with authorities, the U.S. Secret Service said.

A Secret Service officer saw the quadcopter drone flying at a very low altitude before it crash-landed in a tree on the southeast side of the complex just after 3 a.m. Monday, according to Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary.

Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed around the White House while the device was examined and cleared. The White House and the entire perimeter was on lockdown until about 5 a.m., when pass holders who work in the complex were allowed inside.

"There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service at the White House," said press secretary Josh Earnest earlier Monday. "The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House."

A quadcopter is an unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers. The drone is about two feet in diameter.

A D.C. resident called the Secret Service at about 9:30 a.m. Monday after hearing reports of the crash in the media and told authorities he had been flying the drone before it crashed.

He told the Secret Service that he was using the drone recreationally and didn't mean to fly it over the White House, said a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Initial indications are that this incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device," Leary said.

The Secret Service is conducting interviews to corroborate the man's story and is reviewing all other investigative leads.

Earnest spoke from New Delhi, where Obama and his wife, Michelle, were on a three-day visit. They also planned to stop in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday before they return to Washington.

It's not clear whether the president's daughters were at home at the time of the incident.

The incident is the latest in a string of White House security breaches that have led to questions about Secret Service effectiveness. Four of the agency's highest-ranking executives were reassigned earlier this month. Former Director Julia Pierson was forced to resign last year after a Texas man armed with a knife was able to get over a White House fence in September and run deep into the executive mansion before being subdued.

An independent panel, which investigated the agency's leadership and practices in the wake of the September incident and the disclosure of a previously unreported security breach earlier that month, recommended hiring a new director from outside the agency.

That report was the second critical review of the agency responsible for protecting the president. In November the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Secret Service, released an internal investigation about the fence-scaling incident, which concluded that poor training, staff and a series of missteps led to the breach.

Homeland Security investigators found, among other things, that uniformed agents patrolling the White House grounds the night of Sept. 19 mistakenly assumed that thick bushes near the mansion's front door would stop the intruder.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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