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January 10, 2010

Update on the Newark Airport Security Breach (Mætenloch)

In last night's ONT I was snarking about airport incident and the over the top anger towards the guy who went under the rope when it seemed that there was much more blame on the TSA's part:

Haisong Jiang, 28, is a Ph.D. student at Rutgers and crossed under the security rope to kiss his girlfriend goodbye. The breach forced the closure of the terminal for 6 hours while passengers were re-scanned and also caused air traffic to back up around the world. Yes Jiang deserves every bit of the $500 fine but let's reflect on everything the TSA did wrong:
- The TSA guard responsible for the exit left his post. Despite the TSA being non-unionized, he is currently being defended by the AFGE union
- There were no one-way exit stiles like nearly every subway system has - just a rope.
- The TSA surveillance cameras at the security checkpoint did not work - they had to use backup Continental cameras.
This is not security - it's security theater.

Well a TSA employee (who is a frequent AoSHQ reader and who wishes to remain anonymous) emailed me to point out some misconceptions on my part. On the guard and unionization of TSA employees:

I won't deny that the employee who walked away from his post is an idiot who deserves to get fired. That's not even a debatable point. However, you made several errors that I feel you should address tonight.

First, while TSA is not unionized, each employee is free to join a union. In fact, with Obama's election in January, reps from the NTEU (National Treasury Employees' Union) started coming to my airport. It should be noted that they're the same union that represents Treasury agents as well as Customs and Border Patrol officers. In other words, they're like the FOP or PBA for federal law enforcement.

And on the security arrangements within the airport:

Second, I think you greatly overestimate the control the TSA has over the airports at which it is stationed. Any construction that is done, or not done in the case of the exit lane at Newark, is the responsibility of the airport, not the TSA. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is to blame for not having any technological solution to prevent people from going upstream in the exit lane.


That leads me to my third point, regarding the cameras: they are controlled by the Port Authority, not the TSA. TSA does not control the cameras in any airport at which it is deployed. They are the responsibility of Airport Operations, which at Newark is controlled by the Port Authority.

Sadly, TSA has seemingly decided to not defend itself in the face of these misstatements of fact that seem to be occurring in the media. I can only assume that they decided that it's easier to take their lumps for things outside their control rather than make it look like they're trying to deflect the blame from the lone officer who screwed up. It also doesn't surprise me that the media has taken the easy route of blaming the TSA for everything rather than actually doing the research necessary to write an accurate story. But I wish that one of my favorite sites wouldn't parrot the misinformation coming out of the MSM.

So it seems to me that apart from the derelict guard the real scandal here is the poor physical security provided by the airport and the fact that the TSA is responsible for security in an area that it doesn't have much control over.

Given this maybe Sen. Lautenberg should redirect some of his anger from Jiang to the Port Authority for not providing more robust security.

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posted by xgenghisx at 06:32 PM

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