No charges in drone crash on White House lawn
Washington — An intelligence agency employee whose drone crashed on the White House lawn earlier this year won’t face criminal charges, the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington announced Wednesday.
Shawn Usman, who works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, was piloting the borrowed drone in downtown Washington early on Jan. 26 when he lost control of it. Prosecutors said that Usman, who had borrowed the drone from a friend, tried to regain control of the aircraft while it was flying westward and climbed to about 100 feet at about 3 a.m.
Prosecutors said Usman knew the drone’s battery was nearing the end of its charge and decided to go bed, assuming that it would crash somewhere along the National Mall.
The drone was later found on the White House lawn, and a forensic analysis concluded that the operator had not been in control of it when it crashed. Usman told the Secret Service he was the aircraft’s operator after hearing news of the crash.
Federal prosecutors say the Federal Aviation Administration is now reviewing the case. The airspace over much of Washington, including the White House, is off limits to aircraft, including commercially available drones.
Usman’s lawyer, Jim Garland, said Usman has, and will continue, to cooperate with the government in its investigation.
“This entire incident, while unfortunate and understandably alarming, was totally inadvertent and completely unintentional,” Garland said in a statement. “Mr. Usman wishes to express his sincere apologies to all those affected — especially to the president and his family, as well as to those responsible for ensuring their safety.”
The drone crash came at a difficult time for the Secret Service, an agency battling questions about its ability to protect the president in the wake of a series of security breaches last year. The incident has also sped up efforts by the Secret Service and researchers at the Homeland Security Department to find ways to keep drones out of secure areas.
About a month after Usman’s late-night flight, the agency announced plans to test drones over Washington in the coming weeks.
A U.S. official briefed on the plans told The Associated Press that the government will fly drones between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., in order to devise a defense against unmanned aircraft, which can be difficult to detect. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss details of the classified effort.
Among the tests is the use of signal-jamming technology to interrupt control of remotely piloted aircraft, the official said.