Eleven passengers strolled through a security lane without being screened at Kennedy Airport early Monday after Transportation Security Administration agents left the area unsupervised, law enforcement sources said.
Instead of following protocol and notifying Port Authority cops, it took the TSA two hours to tell police about the frightening breach, the sources add. […]
Rather than notifying the police, who are specifically trained to handle those situations, the TSA used its own agents to search for the unscreened passengers.
“The TSA tried to mitigate the situation by sending their screeners through the terminal in violation of all the protocols,” a source said. “The protocol says law enforcement is immediately notified.”
When they were finally alerted, Port Authority cops flooded the terminal equipped with surveillance photos of the travelers, but none of them could be found, the sources said. […]
“What you have is 11 people, unscreened, who boarded unknown flights to unknown destinations,” a law enforcement source said. “This is the failure of the TSA to do its job.” […]
The TSA said it was “confident” the incident represented “no threat to the aviation transportation system.”
“TSA works with a network of security layers both seen and unseen,” the statement said. “Once our review is complete, TSA will discipline and retrain the employees as appropriate.”
I have a several thoughts on this:
- From a national security standpoint, this single incident probably isn’t as scary as it sounds. A bad actor would have had to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to take advantage of the lapse. Unless this type of thing happens routinely, it’s doubtful that bad guys are just hanging out at airports waiting for an opportunity to slip through security. We can’t say for sure that no bad guys got through, but unless there is more to the story, it’s extremely unlikely.
- The TSA’s promise to “discipline and retrain” the employees involved is entirely inadequate. These people abandoned their posts. This was not a simple oversight, as we are all prone to make. They made a decision to leave a gate unguarded. If the TSA is, as we are told, vital to national security, this is unacceptable. Even mere termination doesn’t seem sufficient. If your sole job is to secure a vulnerable location in order to prevent the next 9/11, and you willfully leave that location unsecured, there ought to be more to it than simply losing your job. Whether that should be jail time, a stiff fine, or something else, I don’t know. But if we aren’t serious enough about airport security to hold those responsible for it truly accountable, then securing our airports isn’t as vital as we pretend it is.
- The same goes for whoever chose to ignore protocol and wait two hours before notifying law enforcement. Either the TSA is performing a vital service and should be held accountable, or we need to rethink the whole thing.
- The TSA’s statement that they are “confident” there is “no threat to the aviation transportation system” is a joke. How can they be confident when they still haven’t identified the people who strolled through security? How can they say anything definitive when they haven’t even finished their review? Maybe the person who made this statement needs to be “disciplined and retrained.”