A shocking Associated Press (AP) investigation found 268 perimeter breaches have taken place at airports that together handle three-quarters of U.S. commercial passenger traffic since 2004. And that doesn’t take into consideration all possible breaches as two airports among the 31 that AP surveyed didn’t have data for all eleven years. Boston Logan Airport and the New York City area’s three main airports refused to release information on perimeter breaches, citing security concerns.
Until now, few of these incidents have been made public. Most involved intruders who were looking for a shortcut, were lost, disoriented, mentally unstable, drunk, and seemingly harmless. However a few possessed knives and a loaded handgun. None of the 268 incidents reported involved a terrorist plot, according to airport officials.
Nonetheless, the lapses highlight gaps in airport security in a post-9/11 world where passengers inside terminals face rigorous screening and unsuccessful plots – such as a would-be shoe bomber – which have prompted new safety protocols.
“This might be the next vulnerable area for terrorists as it becomes harder to get the bomb on the plane through the checkpoint,” said airport security expert Jeff Price to Fox News.
Since the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in upgrading perimeter fencing, cameras and detection technology. Many airports have dozens of miles of fencing, but not all our patrolled frequently or in view of security cameras.
Airport officials insist perimeters are secure, and that an intruder being caught is proof their security systems are working. They decline to outline specific measures, other than to say they have layers that include fences, security cameras, and patrolmen. Employees are required to ask for proof of security clearance if a badge is not obvious, NBC News reported.
The AP’s investigation comes on the heels of a perimeter breach last spring when a 15-year-old boy climbed a fence at Mineta San Jose International Airport, hoisted himself into the plane’s wheel well and survived a close-to six hour flight to Hawaii. He said he wanted to go to Africa to see his mother.