House Dem: Airplane stowaway should've been caught

 

The teenager who stowed away on a flight to Hawaii last weekend should have been caught "as soon as he [was] coming over the fence" of the San Jose Mineta International Airport, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said in an interview with CNN.

Swalwell said it was a "remarkable story" that the 16-year-old survived the cold air and lack of oxygen outside of commercial airplanes when they reach cruising altitudes of 30,000 feet of more.

But Swalwell told CNN's Don Lemon that the incident raises questions about airport security, especially in areas that are only supposed to be accessed by employees, such as runaways and tarmacs.

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"Thank heavens he's alive," Swalwell said. "But it does raise major security questions about our airport perimeter security and what more can we do to protect our perimeters, so that they are not breached like this."

Swalwell's district includes the San Jose airport. He called earlier this week for a nationwide reassessment of airport perimeter security after the incident became public.

The California Democrat said in the CNN interview airport security breakdowns are becoming more common.

"This is the fourth security breach in five years," Swalwell said. "We had the jet skier at JFK that wandered across two runways. There was a car that crashed through the gates in Philadelphia. And so for the traveling public to have confidence in air safety, we need to make sure that these perimeters are guarded, at least with upgraded security measures."

Swalwell said it is important to understand the areas where airport security is weak in order to provide fixes.

"I would like to know our vulnerabilities," he said. "We haven't taken a diagnostic of our nation's airports. And these airports, Don, they are bigger than some in many small towns. There are over 1,000 acres in many cases, and it's impossible to guard against 100 percent of the threats. But I think we owe it to passengers to look at what new technologies are out there that we could employ to make sure that when we get on a plane, only ticketed, screened passengers are on that flight."

Swalwell added that it is not just the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that is responsible for securing airport facilities.

"The TSA is responsible for airport security. They work with local law enforcement," he said. "And what I believe we need to do is not just have high-quality security at where the employees go through or where the passengers go through, but these large perimeters. As I said, at the San Jose Airport, you could fit almost 800 football fields in the area that that covers. You can't put a person at every 10 feet to watch it."

Swalwell concluded that technology could be used to approve airport security.

"But with surveillance cameras, with upgraded technologies that are out there, we owe it to people to look at whether this could have prevented this, because we can't afford for somebody to walk into one of these airports who does want to bring harm to passengers or an airliner," he said.