Under pressure to stop people from running onto runways and planes at U.S. airports, authorities are now coming down hard following any reports of airports being breached, the Washington Post is reporting.
In March 2015, a woman walked through the exit gate at San Francisco’s International Airport onto a runway, where she tried to stop a jet because she wanted a ride home to Guatemala. Embarrassed TSA officials tried to suppress details about the case and started withholding information about subsequent breaches, arguing that it could compromise vulnerabilities.
Intruders breach US airport fences every 10 days, report sayshttps://t.co/mWwLbNESFz— FOX & Friends (@foxandfriends) May 26, 2016
After a tussle at the courts, the TSA has now agreed to make perimeter breaches at U.S. airports public. According to newly released information, there have been 345 incidents at 31 airports that account for three-quarters of American passenger travel. TSA officials say the numbers may be even higher because some airports declined to make such information available.
The report revealed that there was a particular airport that had an intrusion every 13 days between 2004 and 2012; intruders had broken into this same airport 9.5 days on the average. Many of the trespassers jumped over barbed wire fences or simply walked through vehicle checkpoints. Others took things to the extreme and crashed their cars through concrete barriers and chain links to get in.
Five intruders brought knives and a fully loaded gun. Others drove bikes, vehicles, and even rode on skateboards on the tarmac. One man managed to get into a helicopter cockpit as it was about to take-off. Airport officials say most of the trespassers were intoxicated or delusional, and no case was linked back to a terrorist plot.
Officials have also argued that these incidents should not be counted as security breaches just because intruders accessed secured areas. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger opined, “it does not surprise me that people sometimes try to jump fences to see what they can get away with … the question is: what’s your ability to detect it and … what might you do to mitigate that happening in the future.”
Over the years, TSA and airports have concentrated less on perimeter fence security, preferring to search-and-frisk passengers and ruffle baggage handlers trying to smuggle contraband onto planes.
There were 39 breaches nationwide in 2015; 34 incidents in 2013 and 42 incidents in 2012. Airport officials will not disclose how much funding is going into reinforcing perimeters, but aviation security consultant Jeff Price said the TSA and airport authorities failed in addressing the cracks in perimeter security. He said, “the straight-up honest answer as to why it’s not being vigorously addressed? Nothing bad’s happened yet.”
Christopher Bidwell, vice-president of security at the advocacy group Airports Council, countered this by saying there was no cause for alarm. He said, “perimeters are not a gaping vulnerability problem … the intruders cannot do anything nefarious because they are actively being surveilled.” Officials stress that many intruders are caught before they can do anything dangerous on the ground.
But there have been cases where video cameras and guards failed to spot intruders. A man drove his car through a chain-link fence at San Francisco’s International Airport; he was driving at 100 mph on the tarmac before law enforcement authorities intercepted and arrested him. A man in Atlanta was found running near airplanes, while a man in Florida was seen hopping onto a jet after scaling a security fence. Another random man drove in his car with a convoy entering the airfield because he wanted to meet Pope Francis. At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, one intruder had brazenly warned an airport worker who spotted him, telling him that he had “better not say anything.”
Do you think airport breaches are a major security concern that needs to be addressed?
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