Tags: Congress | Capitol | security | gyrocopter

Lawmakers Alarmed Over Lack of Warning on Gyrocopter Incident

Image: Lawmakers Alarmed Over Lack of Warning on Gyrocopter Incident
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 17 Apr 2015 09:51 AM

Lawmakers are angry and shocked that they got no warning that the West Front of the Capitol was on lockdown after a gyrocopter landed on the lawn there Wednesday, and upset that they only learned information about the incident from the media, not from the police.

"We should have been alerted," said West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who chairs the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, reports CQ Roll Call. "We absolutely should have been alerted so we cannot only take precautions ourselves, but our constituents."

Capito is seeking a briefing on the situation from Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine "to find out what was done, if anything, or what was known" about the incident.

On Wednesday, Florida postal carrier Doug Hughes, 61, flew "under the radar" through protected airspace to land at the Capitol, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday.

Hughes, who says he wanted to bring attention to the issue of campaign finance reform,  has been allowed to return home to remain on home detention, and has been charged with violating restricted airspace and operating an unregistered aircraft.

"It is scary to think that something like that could come in so close, especially when he was warning us he was coming," Capito told Roll Call.

Lawmakers said they learned about the situation through the media after Capitol Police sent out a press alert about 12 minutes after Hughes came in for a landing. The announcement said police were investigating a gyrocopter with a single occupant and that there were temporary street closures ordered.

"In all honesty, you guys were the guys driving the information on it," Nevada GOP Rep. Mark Amodei told reporters. "Maybe the chief was waiting for you guys to tune up the thing, I don't know."

House Administration Chairwoman Candice Miller, R-Mich, and ranking member Robert Brady, D-Pa., said they are in close contact with the police while the investigation continues.

"Frankly, the individual is fortunate that this stunt did not cost him his life," they said in a joint statement. "Bottom line, this small aircraft should have never been able to access protected airspace and land on the U.S. Capitol Grounds — and this cannot happen again."

Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, who is the top party member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told reporters that he is concerned about the lack of information, and that he only knew about the incident after reading about it online.

The Secret Service, as it turns out, interviewed Hughes in 2013 and determined he was not a threat, and Cummings said he did not know if the agency told that information to the Capitol Police.

"I am concerned because I think, you know, we should have been alerted," Cummings said. "I'm telling you whenever anything happens around here, I get about 20 alerts, but I didn't see anything on this, which is amazing."

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said he is also "deeply concerned" about the incident and he is looking further into it.

"I am deeply concerned that someone has the ability to fly for over an hour through the most restricted airspace in our country, past the White House, and land on the lawn of the Capitol," he said Thursday.

Capitol Police said Wednesday they are working with the Secret Service, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Park Police and U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. In addition, the department is working with Pennsylvania authorities, after learning Hughes launched his flight from there.

Meanwhile, Dine last week submitted a letter of resignation, for unrelated issues, to the Capitol Police Board, reports Roll Call, with the letter remaining under review.

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Lawmakers are angry and shocked that they got no warning that the West Front of the Capitol was on lockdown after a gyrocopter landed on the lawn there Wednesday, and upset that they only learned information about the incident from the media, not from the police.
Congress, Capitol, security, gyrocopter
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2015-51-17
Friday, 17 Apr 2015 09:51 AM
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