NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s U.S. senators slammed federal authorities Wednesday over a security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport over the weekend, and a video of the incident emerged that showed a guard standing nearby as a man followed a woman into the terminal.
The video was viewed by New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and members of his staff after Lautenberg requested it from the Transportation Security Administration. He planned to release the video late Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
Sunday evening’s incident caused massive delays after TSA officials closed Terminal C for six hours.
Staffers who saw the video said a TSA security officer standing nearby didn’t see the man stepping under a rope barrier and into the terminal with the woman without passing through security.
The footage was captured by cameras operated by Continental Airlines after cameras used by the TSA were found to be not working properly.
The security officer has been placed on administrative leave.
At a news conference at the airport Wednesday, Lautenberg, fellow Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and U.S. Rep. Donald Payne called for upgrades to surveillance camera systems and better training and accountability for security officers.
The trio used terms such as “major negligence” and “management failure” to describe the incident.
The breach exposed flaws at three levels: at the exit, where the security officer failed to see the man; the subsequent discovery that security cameras weren’t working properly and hadn’t been storing images, and a resulting delay of about an hour before law enforcement authorities were notified, after TSA officials viewed images recorded on cameras owned by Continental Airlines.
The TSA said it has “modified the staffing and configuration at the exit lanes in Terminal C,” though spokeswoman Ann Davis did not offer specifics.
The unidentified man has not been located.
Davis said TSA officers have been checking the surveillance camera system regularly since Sunday; according to published reports, no recordings had been made for several days prior to the incident.
Davis said Tuesday that the TSA wasn’t aware of the problem and didn’t notify the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which maintains the cameras, because the recorded images are only reviewed when an incident has occurred or is suspected.
Lautenberg likened the scenario to one in which a fire department didn’t notice one of its trucks had a flat tire until it had to respond to a call.
Menendez called it “unfathomable” that the recording system wasn’t being checked routinely and suggested a system that would give a warning when it stopped recording.
“There clearly are innovations that exist that will set off an alarm if your system shuts off,” he said. “You shouldn’t depend on whether or not there’s a security guard checking every hour on the hour — what if in the interim there was a failure of the system?”
In a statement, the TSA said it was working with the Port Authority to ensure the camera system works consistently.
Lautenberg said he has called for a Senate Commerce Committee hearing to review the incident, which left thousands of travelers stranded, some overnight, and caused ripple delays around the globe.
Associated Press Writer Samantha Henry contributed to this story.