Man walks onto Newark airport runways; authorities reviewing security video

Posted at 9:56 AM, Dec 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-26 13:25:45-05

By Ray Sanchez

(CNN) — A man wearing women’s clothing breached a fence and walked onto a runway at the Newark airport on Christmas Day in the second apparent failure of a multimillion-dollar detection system designed to protect New York-area airports, authorities said Thursday.

The police department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released few details of the security breach, except to identify the intruder as Siyah Bryant, 24, of Jersey City, who was charged with trespassing and released.

“This is an ongoing investigation and PAPD is continuing to review PIDS (Perimeter Intrusion Detection System) video and other surveillance methods to determine the circumstances of the incident,” Port Authority Police Chief Louie Koumoutsos said in a statement. “The individual involved was arrested, checked against the JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) and FBI watch lists, issued a summons and released.”

A law enforcement official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said Bryant allegedly breached a fence and crossed two runways at the airport before being noticed by an airport employee. He was arrested for trespassing and later released with a date to appear in court.

Bryant told detectives he got spooked while in a car with someone and tried to get away, the official told CNN.

At no time were any planes in danger, the official said, adding that investigators were trying to determine what happened.

In August 2012, the Perimeter Intrusion Detection System at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport failed to notice a man who walked onto a runway, authorities said.

The man, who was arrested after being spotted by an airline employee, told police he was on a jet ski on Jamaica Bay adjacent to the runway and became stranded, according to the Port Authority.

The man climbed onto the tarmac from the water, but the airport’s security system did not detect him.

The Perimeter Intrusion Detection System is manufactured by the Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co. According to Raytheon’s website, the mission of the $100 million system is “to detect, assess and track intruders attempting to gain access into exterior secure areas.”

The system includes ground surveillance radars, video cameras with motion detection and “smart” fencing, according to Raytheon’s website.

Security in and around airports, as opposed to gates and planes, are handled by local authorities, not the national Transportation Security Administration. All airports, however, report their security plans to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In 2012, the TSA was criticized for failing to report, track and fix other types of airport security breaches adequately, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

The report said the TSA “does not have a complete understanding” of breaches at the nation’s airports.

The report was requested by the late New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg after a series of breaches at the Newark Liberty International Airport, including a knife bypassing TSA screening, passengers walking around security checkpoints and a dead dog transported without being screened for explosives.

The TSA responded to those incidents with “corrective action,” according to the inspector general, but not all the problems received the same treatment.

The TSA took action to fix only 42% of the security breaches documented at the Newark airport, according to the report.

“There’s no consistency because there is no clear guidance on what to report and when to report,” Charles Edwards, acting inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security at the time, told a congressional hearing. “One of our recommendations is that they have to have a comprehensive oversight program where they provide clear guidance on how each of the airports need to be reporting and then TSA needs to follow through.”

Most of the incidents examined occurred in 2010, and the report said since then efforts to fix security breach vulnerabilities have improved.

Five other large U.S. terminals were visited by inspectors for comparison, but the airports’ names were withheld from the public report.

Of the six airports visited, records were found detailing efforts to fix the causes of only 53% of the breaches.

Newark was the lowest-scoring. The highest-rated airport reported corrective action in 88% of the breaches.

In 2010, Haison Jiang, 28, of Piscataway, New Jersey, was arrested on a trespassing charge after allegedly triggering a security breach at the Newark airport.

Security video from the incident showed a TSA officer who left his post unattended a few minutes after he asked an unidentified man to stay behind the rope line. Moments later, the man ducks under the rope and walks the wrong way through security to greet a woman, prompting a security breach that shut down Terminal C for hours and forced the rescreening of thousands of passengers.

CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.

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