Report: ‘Inebriated’ NGA Employee Flew Drone onto White House Lawn

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“It was 42 degrees, lightly raining and pitch black near the White House when an inebriated, off-duty employee for a government intelligence agency decided it was a good time to test-fly his friend’s quadcopter drone that sells for hundreds of dollars and is popular among hobbyists.”

And so begins the New York Time’s story about the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency employee who called his employer and the Secret Service Monday to report that he was at the controls of the drone that went down on the White House South Lawn the night before. The widely reported incident highlighted yet another security vulnerability at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The NGA, which is headquartered near Springfield, Virginia, and collects and analyses satellite imagery to support the military and U.S. intelligence agencies, said in a Jan. 27 statement the employee was questioned by the Secret Service after he self-reported the incident.

“Even though the employee was using a personal item while off duty, the agency takes the incident very seriously and remains committed to promoting public trust and transparency,” the NGA statement says (see below for full statement).

Neither the New York Times nor the Secret Service identified the drone pilot by name or revealed what he does at the NGA. An NGA spokesman told the Times that the man was off duty at the time “and is not involved in work related to drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in any capacity at N.G.A.”

“Investigators said the man had been drinking at an apartment nearby,” the Times report says. “It was not until the next morning, when he woke to his friends telling him that his drone was all over the news, that he contacted his employer, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and then called the Secret Service to confess.”

What a way to start the work week.

You can read the New York Times full account here.

And here’s the statement the NGA issued Jan. 27:

NGA statement on White House drone incident

SPRINGFIELD, Va. – An employee with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was questioned yesterday by the Secret Service as the operator of the drone involved in Monday’s incident at the White House.

The employee self-reported the incident Monday. The employee was off duty and is not involved in work related to drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in any capacity at NGA.

Even though the employee was using a personal item while off duty, the agency takes the incident very seriously and remains committed to promoting public trust and transparency.

The Secret Service is currently investigating the incident.