Security guard faces serious discipline after mystery trespasser shuts down Newark Airport


Originally Published:Monday, January 4th 2010, 12:37 PM
Updated: Monday, January 4th 2010, 1:08 PM

An airport security guard faces discipline after he left his post - or his senses - and let a mystery man into a secure area at Newark Airport, delaying flights worldwide for some seven hours.

The latest airport security blunder comes as President Obama plans to grill his anti-terror team today about recent failings.

The unnamed federal Transportation Security Administration guard either abandoned his station or failed to spot the man walking the wrong way into the exit lane at the airport's bustling Terminal C about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, agency officials said.

It prompted an evacuation of the terminal and flight delays that stretched into yesterday.

"There was an officer assigned to the exit," TSA spokeswoman Anne Davis said, adding the guard has been booted from his screening duties as an investigation continues.

Davis insisted it's no longer a question of whether the guard will be disciplined. "It's more at what level of discipline," she said.

Obama, returning from an 11-day holiday in Hawaii, huddled with CIA officials to discuss the botched Christmas Day attack by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The radical boarded a plane in Amsterdam with explosives in his underwear - and in spite of his father's warning to U.S. officials his son could pose a threat.

Obama has ordered national security officials to the White House today for a broader meeting about the attack, which was foiled, mostly by passengers.

The President has demanded accountability from his team, and there has been speculation heads could roll as a result of the near catastrophe.

The Newark snafu did little to ease concerns about the nation's air safety. What's known about the lapse in Newark - based on a review of security video - is that the wrong-way walker left the same Terminal C through another exit about 20 minutes later.

TSA officials said the agency only learned of the breach after a sharp-eyed bystander noticed the man walk into the secure area.

The man remains unidentified, officials said.

One Port Authority source said there was some evidence that the man was simply trying to meet his wife at her gate. But with his identity a mystery, it was impossible to know why he marched past the clear "No Entry" signs posted above the exit lane.

A search of the terminal turned up nothing suspicious.

The gaffe came as the TSA announced that passengers flying to the U.S. from terror-prone nations would be subject to enhanced screenings, including patdowns.

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg was among those who expressed concern about the new restrictions.

Asked what effect he thinks they might have on tourism and travel to New York, Bloomberg responded, "They're not going to help."

"I mean, I understand why we have them because the first thing is to make sure that you are safe," said Bloomberg, a licensed pilot. "But any kind of restrictions make it much more difficult."

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