Newark airport TSA officer who left post during 'goodbye kiss' breach to be disciplined

March 11, 2010, 6:59PM



NEWARK -- The Transportation Security Administration officer who left his post and allowed a Rutgers doctoral student to enter a secure area at Newark Liberty International Airport on Jan. 3 will be disciplined for the major breach that shut down Terminal C for six hours, TSA officials said.

The disciplinary action for the officer, identified in media reports as Ruben Hernandez of Newark, was not disclosed.

TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said there is a menu of disciplinary options management can impose and a decision is made based on the totality of circumstances.

Before the breach, Hernandez was considered a model employee, having received a commendation.

The two-and-a-half year employee had been on administrative leave since the breach.

The TSA announcement came two days after Haisong Jiang, 28, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Newark Municipal Court to a petty disorderly persons offense of defiant trespass. He was sentenced to $658 in fines and court costs and 100 hours of community service.

Jiang, a Chinese citizen, apologized to passengers, TSA security officers and Continental Airlines for his act of impulse, saying he only wanted to spend more time with his girlfriend before her flight to California.

Their prolonged goodbye kiss set off an international frenzy, with people in Jiang’s homeland debating the case, U.S. Senators discussing it in Washington, D.C., and comparisons being made to the goodbye scene in "Casablanca."

Jiang, who works with mice to research glaucoma and cataracts, said he initially went to the airport exit to wave to his girlfriend

Hernandez is seen on surveillance video asking Jiang to stand back. But the security officer became distracted and left his post.

Jiang, who was not a passenger, is then seen slipping under a security barrier and meeting his girlfriend in a secure area. They embrace and walk away, moments before an unsuspecting Hernandez returns to his desk.

The breach stranded 16,000 passengers, delaying 100 flights and canceling 27 others.


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