Sea-Tac's security: Are they serious?

DannyWestneat

SeattleTimesstaffcolumnist


GregAlderetehasmorethanapassinginterestinhomelandsecurity.AretiredlieutenantcolonelintheArmy,hehasdevotedmostofhislifetoit.

SowhenherealizedhehaddrivenavanontoarunwaytarmacatSea-Tacairport—andthatnoonehadaskedhisname,checkedhisIDorsearchedhisvehicle—well,hejustaboutlostit."Iwasappalled,"Alderetesays."Ifyougointheairport'sfrontdoor,theytakeawayyourtubeoftoothpaste.Butthebackdoor?That'stheweakestsecurityofanycriticalfacilityI'veeverseen."

He'stalkingaboutthecorporatejetarea,ontheairport'ssouthtip.Businessandgovernmentbigwigsflyinandoutofthere.

AldereteandChrisClodfelter,aformerseniormastersergeantintheU.S.AirForce,arrivedthereThursday,May8,topickupatwo-stargeneralflyinginfromPortland.

Whathappenedflooredthem.WhentheysaidtheywerepickingupanArmyofficial,thegateopenedandtheywereinvitedtodriveontotheairfield.

"Weweresittingthere,theengineidling,nobodyaround,whenallofasuddenIrealized:We'reoutonthegoddamnrunway,"Aldereterecalled."We'reinagassed-up,seven-passengervan,andnoonereallyknowswhoweare.Wehaveanunobstructedpathtothemainrunways,thecommercialgates,thewholeplace.Itwasunbelievable."

Nooneaskedtheirnamesorscreenedthemorthevan.Bothwereincivilianclothes.

"Within30secondswecouldhavebeenflooringitdowntherunway,"Clodfeltersays."Theycouldn'thavestoppedus."

"Withavanfullofweaponswecouldhaveshutdowntheentireaviationsystem,"Alderetesaid.

NowwhenIfirstheardthisstory,Ifiguredtheywereexaggerating.Ormaybetherewasalotmoresecuritythantheyrealized.

Nope.Notreally.Itallhappenedprettymuchastheysay.

BoththePortofSeattleandthefederalTransportationSafetyAdministrationreviewedtheincident,includingvideotapes,andconcludedtheirsecuritysystemissound.



"Wearesatisfiedwithhowprocedureswerefollowedthatday,"saidPerryCooper,airportspokesman."Wehaveneverhadasecuritylapseinthatpartoftheairport."

Itturnsoutthere'snorequirement,localorfederal,tocheckIDsorscreendriversandcarswhentheygointothatpartoftheairfield.

Driversmustbemeetingknownflightsandaresupposedtobeescorted.ButAldereteandClodfeltersaytheywereleftontheirown.

Coopersaysitwasa"visualescort"—someonecouldlookoutandseethem.Theywereallowedonthetarmacfor33minutes.

ClodfelterworkedinAirForceoperationsfor21yearsandsaysnothingsolaxwouldcutitthere.

"TakeMcChord,"hesaid."Nobodygetsanywhereneartheactiverunwaywithoutabadge.Idon'tthinkthey'reseriousatSea-Tac."

"YougetcheckedmoregoingintoaMarinersgamethanyoudoonthebacksideofSea-Tac,"Alderetesaid.

Thiswouldallbeonethingcomingfromme.I'vebeenknowntoharponandonabouthowourhomelandsecuritymakesnosense.ButI'manewspapercolumnist.

Alderete,ontheotherhand,wasdirectorofsecurityforArmybasesinbattlezonessuchasMogadishu.Maybesomeonewilllistentohim?


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