How safe are airports? Not very, Times says
Agents sneak fake bombs past security posts
July 27, 1996
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Undercover federal agents investigating airport security in 1995 and 1996 managed to breach security at four of the nation's largest airports, The New York Times reported Saturday. Some agents carried fake bombs that should have showed up in an X-ray.
The Times says a confidential report filed by Mary Schiavo two weeks before the July 17 fatal crash of TWA Flight 800 said undercover agents were able to breach security in 40 percent of their attempts.
Schiavo is the former inspector general of the Transportation Department who resigned July 8. She was a critic of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Once agents passed through checkpoints, they entered secure areas that would have given them easy access to aircraft, including maintenance areas and baggage processing centers. One agent even left a note in a plane cabin to prove he had been there, the Times said.
Schiavo told the paper she urged a quick release of the report, but the FAA and other security officials decided otherwise. The officials, Schiavo said, were concerned about possible attacks during the Olympics.
"The FAA wanted my office to withhold it entirely until after the Olympics," Schiavo said.
In some cases, agents carried fake bomb parts either on themselves or in their luggage. The bomb parts consisted of wires and other elements that should be visible in an X-ray, the Times reported.
"It was pretty alarming," an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Times. "Some of it had to do with the machines at the airport -- how easy it was to get through with make-believe-type bombs on your body or in a briefcase."
Investigators of the TWA Boeing 747 crash say they don't know what caused the plane to burst into a ball of fire and plunge into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, killing all 230 people aboard. But the idea of a bomb is a leading theory.
No publication date announced
The Times said the report was a follow-up to a similar 1993 study in which investigators breached airport security 75 percent of the time.
Bill Schulz, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said he didn't know when the 1996 report would be released. But it will be made public "within the same rough time frame, if not sooner, than the previous reports," he said. Once written, the 1993 report took about two months to reach its final edited form before its release.
Schulz would not comment about specifics of Schiavo's claims. But he told the Times: "Security officials both in the DOT and FAA were concerned that the former inspector general wanted to release a report that would clearly have been damaging to national security in their opinion."
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