Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is it really THAT easy? San Jose Airport under fire after teen stowaways to Hawai'i

SAN JOSE, Calif. — There are calls in Congress to take a closer look at airport perimeter security in the wake of a Santa Clara teenager climbing over the fence at Mineta San Jose International, and stowing away in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines jet to Maui.

 Tuesday Rep. Eric Swalwell, who sits on the Homeland Security subcommittee, called for a nationwide assessment of airport perimeter security. Swalwell asked the Government Accountability Office to issue an updated assessment of airports' security needs.

 On Monday, airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said, "It is possible to scale and airport perimeter fence under cover of darkness and remain undetected, as this teenager did." KTVU has learned the boy may have scaled the fence as early as Saturday night, going directly to the Hawaiian Airlines plane, hoisting himself into the wheel well and falling asleep. The plane took off for Maui around 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

 While the TSA handles security inside the airport, security outside is shared. A TSA official told KTVU, "Each airport authority, along with its state and local law enforcement partners, is responsible for securing airport property, including the outer perimeter," they said. It’s not yet known if the San Jose airport could face fines for the perimeter breach. The FBI said it won't pursue charges against the boy because the teenager did not intend to cause any harm, and the federal system is not set up to deal with children.

 By email, FBI Intelligence Analyst Alice Heller told KTVU, "Because the boy is 15-years-old, there do not appear to be applicable federal statutes with which to charge." Others have not escaped the law so easily. Within the last four months, four security breaches at airports in Pensacola, San Antonio, Phoenix and Newark have led to criminal charges.

The Hawaii Department of Health and Human Services said the boy was "resting comfortably" at a hospital in Honolulu. Child Welfare Services is working on arrangements to get him home to Santa Clara safely.


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