December 27th, 2013
07:06 AM ET

Big Security Breaches at Two Airports

Anyone who climbs a high-security fence at an airport and scurries onto a runway would have to be drunk, on drugs or desperate, one might think.

Two men - at two separate airports in Newark, New Jersey, and Phoenix, Arizona - did just that on Christmas day.

One showed "indications of possible drug and alcohol impairment." The other was wearing woman's clothing and was not interested in anything at the airport - instead he was seeking safety from someone who frightened him, police said.

Both men were charged with trespassing and released.

The breach at Newark exposed a failure of a $100 million system designed to protect New York City area airports. The Phoenix fence hop was the fifth in a decade at that airport, CNN affiliate KPHO reported.

When Siyah Bryant, 24, allegedly mounted the barrier at Newark Liberty International Airport, it went unnoticed for a day. On Thursday, a review of security camera footage revealed his ascent, according to Port Authority police.

The cross-dressed suspect then ran across two runways to get to Terminal C, two police sources said. Nobody saw it, but he was literally on the screen at the time.

The security apparatus in the Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS) made by Raytheon Co. combines radar with video cameras, motion detectors and "smart" fencing, according to the maker's website.

The technology part worked. Someone else may not have.

Cameras captured images of the intruder and an alarm went off. Police are investigating the actions of the person who monitors the images.

An airport employee nabbed the suspect, Port Authority Police Chief Louie Koumoutsos said in a statement.

He wants to know "why it took an unacceptably long time for officers to locate and take into custody a suspect who was being held by an airport employee."

A law enforcement official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said Bryant told detectives he got spooked while in a car with someone and tried to get away, the official said.

The fright was apparently enough to drive Bryant over two big barriers. He allegedly scaled an eight-foot exterior fence and then a 10-foot, high-tech fence equipped with motion sensors and CCTV cameras, said Paul Nunziato, a spokesman for airport police officers.

Also on Christmas Day, police in Phoenix arrested 49-year-old Robert Bump after he allegedly ran onto the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, police said.

Tower officials saw a man climb over a fence and run onto the tarmac and taxiway, where he headed for a Southwest Airlines plane, Phoenix police spokesman James Holmes said.

The pilot shut down the plane's engines when told the man was approaching. The suspect, who appeared intoxicated, struck the plane's engine with his hands before heading toward the terminal, where he was arrested.

Deborah Ostreicher, deputy aviation director at the Phoenix airport, said Sky Harbor some years ago decided against installing PIDS fencing because it was costly and unproven.

"The technology was not something we felt was worth investing in," she said. "It was extremely expensive and not something we felt was warranted." The airport instead relied on layers of security, including barbed-wire fences, cameras and the eyes of airport workers.

The Newark breach marked the pricey system's second recent flub.

A union official said the system did detect an intruder who scaled a fence at John F. Kennedy International Airport last week but the suspect wasn't apprehended until 10 minutes after being detected by PIDS.

"If the system worked properly we would have caught the guy as he's climbing the fence," Nunziato said.

The PIDS system generates many false positives and some cameras don't work properly in dark areas. "Sometimes when it rains, when the wind blows," he said, "the system shuts down."

In August 2012, the PIDS at JFK airport failed to notice a man who walked onto a runway, authorities said.

The man, who was arrested after being spotted by an airline employee, told police he was on a Jet Ski on Jamaica Bay adjacent to the runway and became stranded, according to the Port Authority.

The man climbed onto the tarmac from the water, but the airport's security system did not detect him.

Nunziato said the authority resumed regular police patrols along the perimeters of airports after that breach.

Jeff Price, an aviation expert and professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said the intrusion detection technology has been used around prisons and military bases for a long time but was relatively new to airports.

"In this case, you've got older technology that's proven in certain areas, but now you've put it into a new environment, a new dynamic," he said.

There are no fixed standards for the systems because the federal Transportation Security Administration doesn't require them, Price said.

Security in and around airports, as opposed to gates and planes, is handled by local authorities, not the national Transportation Security Administration. All airports, however, report their security plans to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In 2012, the TSA was criticized for failing to report, track and fix other types of airport security breaches adequately, according to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

The agency's report said the TSA "does not have a complete understanding" of breaches at the nation's airports.

The report was requested by the late New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg after a series of breaches at Newark, including a knife bypassing TSA screening, passengers walking around security checkpoints and a dead dog transported without being screened for explosives.

The TSA took action to fix only 42% of the security breaches documented at the Newark airport, according to the report.

When compared with other airports studied in the report, Newark was the lowest-scoring when it came to fixing vulnerabilities.

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December 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET

Funerals Begin for Train Crash Victims as Investigation Continues

Two passengers on the Metro-North train that derailed in New York have filed a notice of claim against the commuter railroad, an initial step in a lawsuit seeking damages in connection with the accident.

Four people died and 67 others were injured in the crash. "The families of those killed in  Sunday's derailment in the Bronx began laying their loved ones to rest today," reports CNN's Nic Robertson.

The NTSB, meanwhile, has booted the rail union from its investigation into the derailment for violating confidentiality rules.

The agency made the announcement late Tuesday night, hours after a union representative told CNN the train engineer apparently "was nodding off and caught himself too late" before the accident.

In its announcement, the NTSB specifically cited those comments as the violation.

Anthony Bottalico, the union representative, told CNN that engineer William Rockefeller Jr. recognizes his responsibility in the incident.

"I think most people are leaning towards human error," Bottalico said.

Rockefeller's lawyer, Jeffrey Chartier, characterized what happened as "highway hypnosis." He said his client had had a full night's sleep before the crash and had no disciplinary record.

On Wednesday, Chartier said his client never blamed the accident on faulty brakes, disputing earlier statements attributed to Rockefeller.

"Prosecutors are not saying whether it could lead to criminal charges, waiting for the NTSB investigation," Robertson says.

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November 22nd, 2013
12:28 PM ET

Kennedy Cousin Free on Bail

Michael Skakel, a Kennedy relative convicted of the 1975 murder of a 15-year-old neighbor, walked out of a Connecticut courthouse Thursday on bail, CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports

A Connecticut judge set bail at $1.2 million for Skakel, whose murder conviction in the death of Martha Moxley was vacated last month after a judge decided he did not receive adequate representation in his 2002 trial.

After bail was posted, Skakel sauntered out of the courthouse, flanked by his attorneys, a slight grin on his face. He did not speak.

Hubert Santos, his attorney, told reporters that "two tragedies" occurred in Greenwich nearly four decades ago.

"The first was of course the murder of Martha Moxley," he said. "A great tragedy for the Moxley family and for everyone else associated with the matter. The second tragedy occurred in a courthouse ... in 2002 when Michael was convicted of the murder of Martha Moxley. A murder he did not commit. And hopefully we are at the first step of righting that wrong and making sure that an innocent man now goes free."

Stamford Superior Court Judge Gary White set several conditions for the bail, including barring Skakel from leaving Connecticut without court approval, ordering him to wear a GPS tracking device, to refrain from contacting the victim's family, and requiring that he report to a bail commissioner.

Vito Colucci, a private investigator who worked on Michael Skakel's case and met with Skakel and his family when he left jail yesterday, speaks out. (SEE VIDEO BELOW)

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