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Parts of San Francisco Airport Shut Down Because of Security Breach

Aired January 30, 2002 - 13:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're getting new development in the situation at San Francisco International Airport. Parts of the airport have been shut down due to a security breach. Let's check in with our Rusty Dornin at SFO. Rusty, hello.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, we're at the United terminal, which is the largest of the terminals here at SFO, and they have began rescreening the passengers, just about 20 minutes ago they started. They did a sweep of the terminal with bomb-sniffing dogs, and they came up with nothing. They determined it's safe, so they are allowing the passengers back.

Here to talk with us very briefly because she wants to get back in the security line to get on her flight is Sheila Ray, and you are on your way back to Colorado Springs, I understand?

SHEILA RAY, PASSENGER: Yes, I am.

DORNIN: How did you find out first about this security breach or what we are talking about?

RAY: That's the problem, we didn't find it. I'd like to call it organized chaos, but it really wasn't even that well organized, in my opinion.

We were about 10th in line after going through and checking bags in the 1K priority line for United, and we first heard there was a security breach, and we waited about 10 minutes. Finally, we were moved out of the building. Not told why. We all lined up against the glass. No one told anyone to get away from the glass. And then finally, it looked like a baggage handler came out and said, "median strip, median strip," which we understood to mean, "go back to the median strip."

My complaint was nobody told us what was going on, and when they did they used small bullhorns, and nobody could hear them over the sound of the no-smoking announcements outside.

DORNIN: Sheila Ray, thank you very much for joining us. I know you want to get back into security line with your husband.

A lot of frustration by the passengers here. About 2,000 of them were evacuated. We are also here with Ron Wilson from San Francisco Airport. Ron, briefly, how could this have happened? I mean, the man -- they did discover apparently some explosive residue on his sneakers. Why wasn't he stopped there?

RON WILSON, SAN FRANCISCO AIRPORT SPOKESMAN: Well, we don't know the answer to that question. And I don't want to speculate as to the answer to that. I don't want to accuse somebody of not doing their job. We are going to certainly look into that.

The routine would be, if there's an explosive residue that's discovered and it goes through the itemizer machine, the analysis -- that person is held, the police is called, and then that person is questioned. That did not occur. But the sequence of events that took place, we are going to have to follow through to see where it failed, if it did.

DORNIN: Now, from your understanding, did the man ever realize that he had triggered some kind of an alert?

WILSON: Well, we don't know that. We don't know that. We don't know whether that individual ended up down on the concourse area. It's possible he did, that's why we evacuated the building. He could have turned around and walked out the front door. We just don't have the answer to those questions.

DORNIN: Now was it -- can you be sure it was actually explosive residue on his shoe, or could it have been something else? What are the kinds of things that trigger that?

WILSON: Well, there are some false positives, but the likelihood is that it's possible it was an explosive residue. This machine analyzes about seven different kinds of explosive residue, and then comes up on the readout on the machine as to what that residue is. And it appears that it was, you know, explosive material.

DORNIN: We're going to have a traffic jam here at San Francisco Airport for quite a while.

WILSON: We are.

DORNIN: And around the country.

WILSON: Yeah, for the next few hours here, and certainly it will have an effect on areas that these flights go to.

DORNIN: OK, thanks a lot. Ron Wilson, San Francisco Airport.

From what we also understand from the FAA, the security company Argenbright has been under investigation for other security breaches. They were involved in an incident at O'Hare Airport, where a passenger was discovered with knifes, and we also understand that United Airlines might be liable for some kind of fine in this situation -- Daryn.

KAGAN: So Rusty, they never found the guy? DORNIN: Pardon me?

KAGAN: They never found...

DORNIN: No, they never did. They never found him. They only had a description of him, as a white male in his mid-40s, carrying two suitcases.

Well, if you look at the crowd here, I mean, that could apply to 70-80 percent of the folks here. So they didn't get any video of him or any security video of him. So they don't have any pictures.

KAGAN: I bet they have some pictures of some pretty frustrated travelers trying to get where they're trying to go.

Rusty Dornin, at the San Francisco International Airport, thank you very much.

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