Shooting outside US NSA headquarters, one hurt

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—Photo by AFP


WASHINGTON: Shots were fired Wednesday when a vehicle tried to enter the National Security Agency, the US electronic spying agency outside Washington, without authorization — an incident that left at least one person injured, officials said.

But hours after the 7:00 am (1200 GMT) shooting at the main entrance to the highly secure facility in Fort Meade, Maryland, the agency did not explain who fired the shots or the nature of the injuries.

“The situation is under control and there is no ongoing security or safety threat,” the NSA said.

Aerial footage of the scene from NBC News showed a black SUV with numerous bullet holes in its windshield crashed into concrete barriers at the entrance gate.

The images showed what appeared to be police surrounding a man on the ground in handcuffs.

“Weapons were discharged in the course of the incident, which remains under investigation at this time,” the agency said in a statement.

“Several individuals were transported to area hospitals; however, preliminary reports do not presently indicate that there are injuries attributable to gunfire.”

Earlier, an NSA spokesman told AFP that one person was injured.

The local ABC television affiliate put the number of injured at three and said a suspect was arrested.

The Baltimore office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was tasked with handling the investigation.

A law enforcement source told AFP that it was too soon to know whether the incident was an attack on the facility or otherwise.

They are “still trying to ascertain the facts,” the source said.

The White House said that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the situation.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected,” the White House said.

– ‘Puzzle Palace’ –

The NSA is the premier US signals intelligence agency, eavesdropping on electronic communications and hacking computers of US adversaries and suspects worldwide, and also protects US communications and information systems from cyber attack.

The agency was thrust into the spotlight in 2013 when former contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of its global surveillance programs, including its collection of data on Americans.

Its compound, known as the “Puzzle Palace” — located about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of Washington — is highly secure.

In March 2015, guards at the NSA gate opened fire on an SUV which did not heed orders to stop, killing the driver and wounding a passenger.

The two involved, it turned out, were men dressed as women who made a wrong turn into a restricted lane and may have refused to stop because, it later turned out, there were drugs in their vehicle.

The leading US spy agencies installed heavy security at their facilities after an assault rifle-wielding man opened fire on cars waiting to enter the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters compound in McLean, Virginia in January 1993. Two CIA employees were killed and three wounded.

The man, Aimal Kasi, escaped to his native Pakistan and it took US investigators four years to find him. He was eventually arrested and sent back to the United States, where he was convicted of murder and executed in 2002.

In 2016, a man drove his car into a fence gate at the CIA headquarters, claiming he was an agency recruit. He was arrested but was found to be mentally unstable, and only received 30 days in jail and a fine.—AFP

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