TSA: Man who caused security breach at NJ airport left about 20 minutes after arriving

By Dave Porter, AP
Monday, January 4, 2010

TSA: Man who caused breach at NJ airport soon left

NEWARK, N.J. — A man who breached security controls at Newark Liberty International Airport, resulting in major delays and grounding flights for six hours, left a terminal about 20 minutes after he entered the wrong way through a security checkpoint, the Transportation Security Administration said Monday.

Someone picking up a passenger told an officer guarding the exit that he thought he saw a man enter through the doors Sunday, TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said. The agency reviewed surveillance video before sweeping the airport, she said.

The video confirmed the man had entered through the exit, and officials made passengers leave the terminal and be rescreened.

The video also showed the man leaving the terminal through another exit about 20 minutes later, Davis said, although it was unclear when authorities learned the man had left.

“We have to operate under the assumption that he’s still in the sterile area,” Davis said. “We have to ensure that he hadn’t introduced anything to the sterile area.”

Authorities found nothing suspicious when they searched the terminal after evacuating passengers. They were still trying to determine the man’s identity and whereabouts.

The officer responsible for the breached area has been reassigned to non-screening functions during the investigation, Davis said.

The TSA said it would not release the video because it was part of an investigation.

Sunday’s chaos at Terminal C, where the security breach occurred, had largely dissipated by Monday morning. By early afternoon, most domestic departing flights were listed as on time or close to it.

Many international arrivals were delayed, though, some by several hours.

Sarah Kornblet, 29, of Washington, D.C., was in Newark and just about to board her Continental Airlines flight to Mumbai on Sunday when the security breach occurred. She evacuated for about three hours and then had to go through security again.

“Newark airport was a mess. Not one single announcement was made, with these thousands of people waiting for hours,” Kornblet said. “We learned about it from watching CNN.”

Her flight was repeatedly delayed. The latest estimate she heard was a departure of 4:45 p.m. Monday.

Tom Hiletch, of New York City, was trying to get to St. Thomas on Monday with his wife and toddler.

“When we got here this morning, there were thousands of people. Long, long lines, people delayed, people rerouted,” he said. “It was pretty frustrating.”

At Oslo’s Gardermoen airport, a Continental flight to Newark that was scheduled to leave at 11 a.m. Monday was delayed at least six hours. Passengers sat on suitcases and chatted among themselves as they waited in a check-in line that barely moved for 1 1/2 hours.

Ragnhild Belbo, 26, of Trondheim, Norway, was traveling to St. Paul, Minn., with her 82-year-old grandmother to visit her brother, a student at St. Olaf College. She was disappointed to learn they would probably have to spend the night in Newark.

“It’s a bit hard to lose one day when you have one week only, and there could also be more delays,” Belbo said.

Kristian Hoynes, 19, of Floro, Norway, worried about missing his second anniversary dinner with his girlfriend of two years, who was staying with her parents in Warrenton, Va.

“We’d sort of planned a dinner,” said Hoynes, a sophomore at the University of Charleston, W.Va. “But now I don’t know.”

The TSA announced Sunday that passengers flying to the U.S. from nations regarded as state sponsors of terrorism and countries of interest would be subject to enhanced screening.

Associated Press writers Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, N.J., Colleen Long and Kim Gamel in Newark, N.J., and Maria Sanminiatelli in Oslo contributed to this report.

will not be displayed