One dead, two wounded after intruders enter National Security Agency, officials say

Baltimore Sun Media Group
One is dead after gate-crashing incident, gunfire at Fort Meade.

A trip that began in Baltimore ended Monday morning with two men dressed as women in a stolen SUV careening toward the entrance to National Security Agency headquarters, where police opened fire, killing one and wounding the other.

Officials said an NSA police officer was also wounded in the incident, which occurred about 9 a.m. at the western edge of Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.

An FBI spokeswoman said investigators "do not believe [the incident] is related to terrorism" — but didn't say why. Authorities believe the SUV's turn from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway up the restricted ramp to the NSA, past warning signs and armed guards, might have been a mistake.

By the end of the day, it remained unclear who the intruders were, how they ended up at the entrance of one of the nation's most secretive organizations, and why they didn't follow an officer's orders to turn back.

The NSA released few details.

In a terse statement, spokesman Jonathan Freed said two individuals attempted an "unauthorized entry" of the secure campus and failed to obey an officer's routine instructions to leave.

Police deployed barriers, Freed said. The SUV accelerated toward a police vehicle.

Officers fired on the car, he said, and the SUV crashed into the police vehicle.

"NSA takes seriously the security of its workforce and facilities," Freed said.

Local television broadcast footage of two damaged vehicles — a dark-colored SUV and a larger white police vehicle — near the gate. Emergency workers were seen loading a uniformed man into an ambulance, and a white sheet covered what appeared to be a body.

One of the intruders died at the scene, Freed said. He said the cause had not been determined.

The other intruder and the police officer were taken to a local hospital, Freed said. A firefighter on the scene said the officer's wounds were not life-threatening.

President Barack Obama, visiting Boston, was informed of the incident, a White House spokesman said.

Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, whose district includes Fort Meade, said the NSA has "excellent security," with layers of guards and physical obstacles.

"There are numerous barriers that you're not going to be able to get through," the Baltimore County Democrat said. "These security people are trained, and they know what to do."

Officials did not release the identities of the two men, and there was no word on a possible motive.

The National Security Agency, an intelligence agency within the Defense Department, has been at the center of a public debate over government surveillance of private communications involving U.S. citizens.

Scrutiny and criticism have increased in the two years since former contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the agency has been collecting the telephone data of millions of Americans.

Federal judges have come to opposite conclusions about the legality of the program, and lawmakers are trying to redesign it before it expires in June.

It was unclear whether the incident Monday had anything to do with the controversy over the NSA's surveillance activities.

Ruppersberger said there was no indication that the agency was targeted for attack.

The Washington Post reported that the incident began Sunday night in Baltimore, where three men met, and continued at a motel on U.S. 1 in Jessup, where one of the men awoke Monday morning to find his two cross-dressing companions and his Ford Escape gone.

The men drove the SUV south on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway as the morning rush hour eased. They turned up the ramp to the NSA, ignoring signs that warn unauthorized personnel away.

Their confrontation with armed guards ended in moments.

Police, firefighters and emergency medical workers from Fort Meade, the Maryland State Police and Anne Arundel County were called to the scene.

A firefighter said the surviving intruder was shot in the chest. He said both the intruder and the wounded officer were taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

A defense source said the intruders were men dressed as women. The firefighter said he saw a wig on the ground next to the intruders' car.

A spokeswoman for the Howard County Police Department confirmed the SUV was reported stolen Monday morning from the motel in Jessup.

Personnel on the base were informed of the incident after it had been contained.

"As we do in all of our security messages, we reminded employees to remain vigilant for suspicious activity," base spokeswoman Mary Doyle said. She said security measures were not changed as a result of the incident.

An evidence response team from the FBI field office in Baltimore was processing the crime scene, spokeswoman Amy J. Thoreson said, and agents were interviewing witnesses.

She said the agency was working with the U.S attorney's office in Maryland to determine whether federal charges are warranted.

Fort Meade, with 51,000 uniformed personnel, civilian employees and contractors, is the largest workplace in the state and the third-largest Army installation in the United States.

About 10,000 people, including employees and family members, live on the base.

"The incident has been contained and is under investigation," Col. Brian Foley, the base commander, said shortly before 1 p.m. "The residents, service members and civilian employees are safe. We continue to remain vigilant at all of our access points."

In addition to NSA, Fort Meade houses the U.S. Cyber Command, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Defense Information School and elements of all the armed services.

Fort Meade was once open to local traffic. But security was increased after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and now all visitors are required to enter through checkpoints and show identification.

The National Security Agency is fenced off from the rest of the base. It has always had a secure perimeter. Established in 1952, its existence wasn't acknowledged officially until a Senate investigation in 1975.

Last July, a man failed to obey an NSA police officer's command to stop at a checkpoint. The man drove off, injuring an officer and nearly striking a barricade. He was later arrested.

The area was on alert in early March after a string of public shootings included shots fired at a building near NSA's campus.

A 35-year-old Beltsville man has been charged in connection with that incident.

Hong Young was indicted last week on charges of attempted murder and other violations. He was being held at the Jennifer Road Detention Center in Annapolis pending an appearance in court next week, according to online records.

The Washington Post, the Associated Press and Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

A deadly ride

•Monday morning: An SUV is reported stolen from a hotel on U.S. 1 in Jessup

•Shortly before 9 a.m., two individuals in the SUV attempt an "unauthorized entry" at the National Security Agency gate off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway on the western edge of Fort Meade

•An NSA police officer gives "routine instructions for safely exiting" the campus

•The SUV does not stop. The driver accelerates toward an NSA police vehicle

•NSA police open fire. The SUV crashes into the police vehicle

•One occupant dies at the scene. The other occupant and a police officer are taken to a local hospital for treatment

Source: National Security Agency; Howard County Police Department

Base shootings

Military installations in the United States have suffered a variety of attacks. Here are some recent examples:

Fort Hood, Texas, April 2, 2014: Army Spec. Ivan Lopez, 34, goes to the administrative office of the 49th Transportation Battalion to ask for leave to address a family matter and gets into an argument. He leaves, returns and shoots three soldiers to death and wounds 16 before killing himself.

Naval Station Norfolk, March 24, 2014: Jeffrey Tyrone Savage, a 35-year-old truck driver, attempts to shoot a sailor aboard the destroyer USS Mahan. Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark A. Mayo, 24, of Hagerstown shields the sailor and is killed. Savage is shot to death by naval security forces; Mayo is awarded the Navy's highest decoration for noncombat heroism.

Washington Navy Yard, Sept. 16, 2013: Aaron Alexis, 34, a Navy veteran and civilian contractor who had told police of hearing voices, walks through the Naval Sea Systems Command shooting at workers. He kills 12 people, all civilians, and wounds three before he is shot to death by police.

Fort Hood, Nov. 5, 2009: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39 an Army psychiatrist who had exchanged emails with anti-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, opens fire at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center. He kills 13 and wounds more than 30 in the worst shooting ever on a U.S. military base. He is convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder and sentenced to death.

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