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Guilty Plea in Newark Security Breach

The man who breached security at Newark airport and, in the process, caused widespread delays across the country, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of defiant trespassing. Haisong Jiang, will pay a $500 fine and perform 100 hours of community service, after crossing into an unguarded post-security area at the airport.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Jiang, who had snuck under the security rope to say one last goodbye to his girlfriend before she flew to California, apologized publicly for the first time outside the courthouse. “I want to deeply apologize to those (affected) for my breach,” Jiang said. “I just wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend. I made a big mistake, and I also learned a big lesson.”

Following the incident, numerous legislators demanded stiff penalties for individuals who intentionally breach security, including a $10,000 fine/10-year prison sentence proposed by New Jersey Senator Frank Launtenberg. Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, who represents the district that includes Newark airport, told the AP, “We live post-9/11, and we can’t take for granted the security we have. At this point we need to make sure that actions like this do not allow other people who have criminal intent to get through and cause us harm and danger.”

Yes, but wouldn’t it be more useful to employ security guards who actually stay at their post? This, to me, is the main ingredient here, that the access point Jiang used was abandoned, albeit briefly, by the guard stationed there, allowing the love-struck Jiang to cross the point of no return.

With all due respect to the gravity of the situation, my feeling is that the sort of penalty suggested above, while certainly a harsh punishment, would be of limited use as a deterrent. It seems unlikely that anyone who would breach airport security with “criminal intent to get through and cause us harm and danger” would be concerned with the legal consequences of that choice. Instead, we should be asking ourselves why the TSA employs guards who leave secure airport areas vulnerable to anyone who might wander in.

Readers, what do you think? Does the punishment fit the crime? Should Jiang receive a tougher penalty?

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