White House drone operator worked for U.S. intelligence agency

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Secret Service questioned a Defense Department intelligence agency staffer on Monday after the man reported that he flew the drone that crashed on White House grounds in the early morning hours.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — a little-known but enormous agency with a broad mission that ranges from supporting U.S. combat efforts to aiding security planning for the Olympics — said Tuesday that one of its off-duty staff members had “self-reported the incident.”

That employee, the agency said, “is not involved in work related to drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in any capacity” for the U.S. government. The drone, the agency said, was owned personally by the employee.

The two-foot wide recreational quadcopter had taken off from a neighborhood east of the White House before flying over the President’s residence and above the White House grounds before crashing on the southeast side of the complex.

The man who said he was flying the drone was interviewed by Secret Service agents on Monday and has been fully cooperative, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said in a statement Monday afternoon.

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

President Barack Obama said in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in India on Tuesday morning that the United States needs to regulate the industry as the recreational and commercial use of drones expands.

“The drone that landed in the White House you buy in Radio Shack,” he said, comparing the drone to cyberspace and saying that U.S. laws and regulations still need to catch up with new technologies.

“You know that there are companies like Amazon that are talking about using small drones to deliver packages. … There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife,” Obama said. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

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