New York NY Feb 22 2017 No lines. No waiting. And no TSA screeners.
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.
The unscreened passengers — three of whom set off a metal detector — didn’t even have to take off their shoes to get through security, according to a photo of two of the men obtained by the Daily News.
There was no one present to operate the magnetometer and the X-ray machine, or to do pat-downs and secondary screening, the sources said.
“It’s scary that people could just walk in like that. It’s seems like something’s out of control here,” said Marie Ruiz-Martinez, 49, of Connecticut, who was at the airport to see her niece off to Puerto Rico.
The breach happened just after 6 a.m. at JetBlue’s Terminal 5.
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.
The three people who set off the metal detector all flew to California, a Port Authority official said. Records show there were four JetBlue flights from Terminal 5 scheduled for California between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. — two to San Francisco and two to Los Angeles.
In a statement, the TSA said it was reviewing the incident.
“Early reports indicate three passengers did not receive required secondary screening after alarming the walk-through detector,” the agency said. “All personal carry-on bags received required screening.”
The Port Authority official said eight of the travelers hadn’t been identified by late Monday.
“Port Authority Police are continuing to assist federal authorities in efforts to identify and locate the other eight passengers,” the official said.
“If it could happen once, maybe it could happen again,” Talcone said.
“We’re living in dangerous times right now, a lot of things are happening worldwide,” she said. “Security should increase.”
Gavin Pruett, 20, traveling home to California, was alarmed by the security breach.
“You never know what people are thinking or what their motives are,” he said. “For someone to go unscreened, that’s kinda questionable. Especially at JFK.”
There was plenty of outrage to go around.
“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.”
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) weighed in. “We are looking into it and trying to get more information,” he said, “but it is disturbing.”
A Port Authority police official confirmed the TSA’s two-hour delay in alerting cops.
“Port Authority Police attempted at approximately 8 a.m. today to locate 11 individuals who went through an unattended TSA PreCheck checkpoint at approximately 6 a.m. at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 5,” the official said.
“Those terminal searches, initiated when a TSA supervisor discovered and alerted Port Authority Police to the lapse, were unsuccessful, and it is believed the travelers in question boarded various flights.” The statement did not make clear whether there was anyone at the screening spot to look at the monitors as the bags went through the X-ray machine.
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.”
NY Daily News