Gyrocopter Lands at US Capitol

A Florida mailman flew a gyrocopter through restricted airspace in Washington, DC, yesterday, landing at the US Capitol. He was protesting campaign finance shenanigans, and he thought that this stunt would get lawmakers to sit up and take notice. One doubts it. However, what he has done is demonstrate just how inept, lax and useless the authorities are in dealing with matters of everyday security. Heads must roll, and policies must change.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Doug Hughes had planned this for two-and-a-half years, and that he told the authorities he was going to do it. The Secret Service visited him a couple of times last spring, and then, nothing happened. So, he bought a burner phone and a videocamera to live-stream his flight.

The paper said, “After 21/2 years of planning, Hughes came hovering low over the buildings of northeast D.C. about 1:20 p.m., like a distant bird. He rounded the Washington Monument a few minutes later, flew straight up the expanse of the National Mall and brought his small craft down right in front of the Capitol, where he was quickly surrounded by police and surrendered without incident.

“The flight stunned police, Secret Service and witnesses. Authorities briefly shut down the Capitol as a security measure. The incident brought out dozens of reporters and cameras from national media outlets — exactly what Hughes had hoped for. Hughes, who sees himself as a sort of showman patriot, a mix of Paul Revere and P.T. Barnum, wanted to do something so big and brazen that it would hijack the news cycle and turn America’s attention toward his pet issue: campaign finance reform.”

Now, perhaps the interviews with Mr. Hughes convinced the Secret Service that he was just a frustrated patriot who meant only to save his country and not to harm anyone. If so, their response belies that scenario. Mr. Hughes claims he both phoned an agent and left a message as well as sent a blast email that several reporters said they received. The Secret Service, in fact, issued a statement that said it had not received notification of the flight. One doesn’t know which is sadder, the fact that it claims not to have known or the fact that is should damn well have known and did nothing.

Mr. Hughes is, most likely, harmless, but his flight demonstrated that someone with bad intent could land on the grounds of the US Capitol. Armed with Molotov Cocktails or a decent rifle, such a person could create chaos and kill innocents. And those charged with stopping such were asleep at the wheel, the Secret Service, the Capitol Police, the entire Department of Homeland Security. All need to be purged. September 11, 2001, should have been enough to keep everyone on their toes.

A similar incident occurred in Moscow many years ago, when the Soviet Union was still a going concern. On May 28, 1987, a German kid name Matthias Rust landed his Cessna in Red Square. So much for the impregnable Soviet air defenses. Scretary-General Mikhail Gorbachev sacked a great many military men including Minister of Defence Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergei Sokolov and the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Air Defence Forces, former World War II fighter ace pilot Chief Marshal Alexander Koldunov.

Mr. Hughes is going to stand trial, but one wonders if any of the real criminals, the criminally negligent will even lose their jobs.

A more fundamental problem is that Americans security is based on protecting places rather than spotting the bad guys. As the Israelis put it, the Yanks look for weapons while they look for terrorists. No more metal detectors as the Capitol, and much more looking for crackpots (homegrown and foreign) who would do harm to the public.