The White House and U.S. Capitol Hill building were temporarily placed on lockdown on Tuesday, Nov. 26, due to an airspace violation.
An unidentified aircraft or other “anomaly” had violated restricted airspace or the no-fly zone over the District of Columbia.
The incident triggered an immediate security situation. The U.S. Secret Service issued a “shelter-in-place” order, instructing White House staff to stay put and reporters to remain inside the briefing room next to the West Wing. Officers also issued a warning for those outside the Capitol vicinities to stay far away.
The Capitol police directed a notification of a potential threat around 8:30 a.m. and scrambled a helicopter. The U.S. military responded, scrambling fighter jets from Joint Base Andrews to Washington.
A Pentagon spokesman stated that it was determined later that the unidentified plane was “considered not hostile.”
The offices in both locations reopened and people were allowed back in about 30 minutes after the temporary lockdown was lifted.
A White House journalist tweeted an image showing “a missile battery in position atop a building across the street from the White House.”
Spotted during the lockdown: a missile battery in position atop a building across the street from the White House pic.twitter.com/IkmjWby2FI
— Sara Cook (@saraecook) November 26, 2019
Security concerns about airspace over Washington have intensified since the September 11, 2001 attacks by terrorists using hijacked planes to target key buildings in the capital and the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
Three years later, in 2004, security officers ordered evacuation from the Capitol and the surrounding buildings on the day of former President Ronald Reagan’s funeral.
A plane transporting Kentucky’s Governor Ernie Fletcher was mistaken as a terrorist threat. The incident had triggered a pandemonium, with Capitol police scrambling to evacuate government buildings and shouting orders to those present to remove their shoes and run.
Tuesday morning’s sighting of the identified aircraft in the no-fly zone, however, prompted a swift response from Capitol police and the U.S. military but without the commotion during the 2004 scare.
Officials were calm and unfazed by the brief lockdown. As this is the Thanksgiving week, most lawmakers and staff aides are away on vacation.