Sunday's security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport, and the seven-hour delay that followed, is apparently the result of a security guard leaving his post for one minute. ABC News reports new surveillance video reveals that a TSA guard assigned to the exit door from Newark's Terminal C left his post, allowing a man to walk past security and into the terminal without being screened. The video has not been released, but here is the reported timeline, per ABC:
"At 5:20 p.m., surveillance images owned by Continental Airlines show the TSA officer responsible for preventing entry into the secure area of the concourse walking away from his post, the source told ABC News.
At 5:21 p.m. a man who had been caught on camera loitering nearby walked through the exit lane into the sterile area. By 5:22 p.m. the TSA officer had returned to his podium, and at 5:23 p.m. a bystander was seen telling the TSA officer what happened."
According to ABC, the officer has been placed on administrative leave.
Further complicating matters, TSA was apparently slow to react to the situation. The agency's own cameras were not working, and more than an hour passed before it requested video from the Port Authority of NY/NJ, which operates the airport. A quicker response could have allowed officials to identify and locate the individual who breached security, but instead a full two hours passed before TSA even confirmed the breach itself. The man in question has not been found.
As more and more details from this incident are revealed, the TSA's handling of it appears more incompetent and embarrassing. That the breach happened at all seems wholly due to this officer leaving the door, and the magnitude of the incident is the result of the TSA's chaotic, clumsy response.
Worse, the TSA's irresponsibility with regard to its video equipment means this man will likely never be found, which means we will never learn his motive. Was he waiting for an arriving passenger, and thought to cure his boredom with a little experiment? Or was this something less benign? It's neither fair nor wise to make assumptions, but it's unacceptable that the TSA's actions mean we will likely never know.