San Jose breach raises US security questions?

Boy avoided video, dogs and Segway-riding police officers
How could a boy do this at San Jose airport?
How could a boy do this at San Jose airport?

San Jose airport Aviation Director Kim Aguirre on Tuesday called the security breach involving a teen stowaway who sneaked onto the airfield a “very serious” incident that could spark changes in how the airport protects its passengers.

The failure made it clear that a determined person can get into a supposedly safe area and sneak onto a plane.The details that have emerged show how the 16-year old boy slipped through multiple layers of security.

It seems he avoided video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers and:

  • scaled a six-foot fence topped with barbed wire
  • once on the airfield, security cameras captured an image that appeared to be the boy but apparently no one monitoring the closed-circuit video system saw it
  • hopped onto a Hawaiian Airlines 767’s wheel well even though the airline says its people are supposed to do early checks of the aircraft, including the wheel well


In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Richard Bloom, the director of terrorism, intelligence and security studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, said perimeter security breaches are still rare.


“This doesn’t mean we should radically change how we do aviation security,” he said. It’s just that “with all these different layers of security, none of them is 100 percent accurate. Each has its own vulnerabilities.”

San Jose’ meets the Transportation Security Administration’s guidelines and features protections similar to those in place at San Francisco International Airport.

US Security

Anyone looking to visit the US is given a not too welcoming reception on security grounds since 9/11. Indeed many people just avoid the US because of the hassle.

You would expect US airports to be really secure but there are doubts.

As well as this San Jose incident, consider this one at JFK in New York.

JFK, August 2012

After sinking his jet ski, wearing a bright yellow life jacket, Daniel Casillo, a 31-year-old resident of Queens, N.Y. had to swim to the only lights he saw on shore.

In saving his life he penetrated JFK airport, bypassing the $100 million security system.

He  swam towards distant lights, climbing over an 8-foot tall perimeter security fence, and crossing active runway 4L and intersecting runway 31L, the longest at the airport.

Cold and disoriented, Casillo climbed the 8-foot fence, but nothing happened. Despite climbing the fence and violating the law, Casillo remained undetected and headed toward the control tower.

  • “That was the only thing lit up that I could go to,” Casillo said.