Doug Hughes, the letter carrier who piloted a featherweight gyrocopter over the treetops to alight on the Capitol lawn Wednesday, was acting out a one-man “voter’s rebellion.” In the name of campaign finance reform and “honest government,” he managed to slice through the world’s best-protected airspace no more molested than the birds who wheel and soar in the breeze. Hughes turned out to be harmless – not to mention right that current campaign finance rules are a blot on U.S. governance – so thank goodness he wasn’t shot down.

But why, with all the billions spent on homeland security and the special attention lavished on the no-fly federal core known to aviation officials as Area 56, could the combined agencies – Secret Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Capitol Police, FBI – not stop Hughes before he took off from or divert him before he reached the Capitol?

Federal officials may offer some boilerplate explanation about no security regime being truly airtight, no matter its level of resources and funding. Maybe it is undeniable that the Capitol remains a magnet for the unhinged, the unbalanced and the unconventional – and not only for those elected to serve there. The White House and congressional leaders should be asking hard questions about whether the nation’s capital is safe from small aircraft, which could be piloted by someone more malevolent than Hughes.

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