A Russian surveillance plane flew over secure airspace in Washington D.C., two U.S. officials said.
The Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft was spotted on Aug. 9, the Washington Post reported. It made an authorized flight over the Pentagon, the Capitol and other government buildings.
The flight was conducted through the Treaty on Open Skies, an agreement between the United States, Russia and 32 other nations that allow countries to make unarmed observation flights over other countries participating in the treaty. The objective is to promote transparency between nations and monitor international arms control efforts, according to the State Department.
Authorities issued a warning to those on Capitol Hill that an “authorized low-altitude aircraft” would be flying over the restricted airspace between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The alert did not specify who owned the aircraft, but added the plane would "be large and may fly directly over the U.S. Capitol.”
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“This flight will be monitored by U.S. Capitol Police and other federal government agencies,” the alert stated.
A Defense Department official, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that the aircraft alluded to in the alert was from Russia. The official added that they were operating in the area through the Treaty on Open Skies.
Another plane was supposed to fly over President Donald Trump’s property in Bedminster, New Jersey that same evening. A U.S. airmen is supposed to be onboard when another country is conducting an Open Skies flight on U.S. soil, according to the treaty's guidelines.
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Defense Intelligence Agency director Vincent Stewart has previously argued that Russia may be taking advantage of the treaty, Defense News reported. He told the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee that he would "love" to deny Russia from flying over the U.S. through the treaty, and even warned of emerging threats.
“The things that you can see, the amount of data you can collect, the things you can do with post-processing, allows Russia, in my opinion, to get incredible foundational intelligence on critical infrastructure, bases, ports, all of our facilities,” Stewart said in March 2016, according to Defense News. “So from my perspective, it gives them a significant advantage.”
Still, other officials saw the merit in the Treaty on Open Skies.
“We have to remember that while we have pretty good intelligence on a lot of the world, a lot of other countries don’t necessarily have that great of intelligence on us,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said of the program last year. “So, in the interest of transparency and miscalculation on their part, sometimes it’s worthwhile to allow them to have a look at what you’re doing or what you’re not doing.”
While the investigation into Russian collusion continues, Trump took to Twitter on Aug. 11 to once again call out North Korea.
"Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely," the president tweeted. "Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"