Outdated White House defenses no match for intruding drone. An electronic fence is lacking
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis
January 26, 2015,
The fence which surrounds the White House grounds was breached some months ago by an unhinged man brandishing a knife. The anti-air missiles posted on the roofs of government buildings surrounding the president’s compount missed the Quad Copter drone which crashed onto its grounds Sunday night, Jan. 25. debkafile’s security experts ask: Isn’t it time to install an electromagnetic perimeter fence to protect the White Hous by its ability to jam the communications, and control and command features of alien mobiles and smart phones in particular? Such phones can launch, operate and guide devices carrying explosive payloads, take video films in color and relay data in real time to their operators.
Had this virtual fence been in place, the phone-operated drone which Sunday night flew at low altitude into the White House compound and crashed on its southeast side, would never have made it that far.
Under cover of dark and freezing winter storms, the unmanned Quad Copter, which is roughly one meter square with four rotors, flew undetected into the complex, when President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, were in New Delhi on a state visit. The president’s daughters and their grandmother were in residence.
The crash, the latest in a string of security breaches at the White House, prompted an immediate lockdown of the grounds. An investigation was then launched to determine the origin of the device and seek out suspects and motivations.
Our defense experts describe the features of the electronic fence, which should today be mandatory for essential and sensitive sites: They include jammers that emit “white noise” on the same frequencies as cell phones and areas where unmanned aerial vehicles are present. This “whitenoise” blocks off communications links and command and control capacities that would otherwise serve an external assailant.
The absence of this kind of protection means that someone in the US secret service and intelligence community fell down on the task of guarding America’s highest national symbols back in the early 2000s, shortly after 9/11.
An extremely grave security breach has undeniably occurred – no matter whether it was meant as a hoax, a game that went wrong, or a trial balloon launched by a would-be assailant to draw the White House’s defense systems into showing their hand. The security principle of “terrain dominance” was shown to have broken down and its defenses permeable.
On all aerial maps used for commercial and civilian flights, the sky over the White House is marked “No Fly Zone,” like hundreds of military, security and intelligence facilities across the US. They carry warnings of aggressive air defense missiles and warplanes automatically ready 24/7 to scramble and intercept trespassers.
But this impressive tool bag proved Sunday nigh to be lacking the right tools, because it was adjusted to the last decade and not brought up to date for repelling the unmanned aerial vehicles in routine use by every modern army and intelligence agency.
A drone operated by smartphone, which can be guided across hundreds of meters, i.e, fly over Massachusetts Ave. to land on the White House lawn on Pennsylvania Ave., is available on the Internet for $250. A drone able to carry a small explosive payload, plus operating mechanism and camera for filming live an explosion in the White House, is available for around $400. These sums are peanuts for terrorist organizations.
The US government has little option but to hurry up and get proper regulations in place for controlling the sale of aerial devices and their registration, with limitations on their use – even such devices which are classified at present as toys.