Schumer, Citing ‘Failures,’ Wants Airport Breaches Investigated

For the second time in two weeks, a New York-area airport went into lockdown after a security breach by someone who did not appear to be a terrorist.

For the second time in two weeks, a New York-area airport went into lockdown after a security breach by someone who did not appear to be a terrorist.Terminals were evacuated and planes were delayed. Passengers were forced to wait on long lines; airlines lost money. And even more questions were raised about the heightened airport security that has followed an attempt to blow up a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit last month, an act that led to the indictment of a Nigerian man with suspected ties to Al Qaeda.

On Sunday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he would send a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Transportation Security Administration demanding that they investigate both breaches, which he called “failures of personnel” at the airports.

“There has been a little bit of complacency that has set in after 9/11,” Mr. Schumer said in a telephone interview. “With these kinds of things we need to make sure nobody gets past the security gate without being checked and make sure nobody gets through a side door. It takes a little bit of vigilance; you don’t need a great technological innovation.”

Two weeks ago, a Newark Liberty International Airport terminal was closed for several hours after a 28-year-old graduate student from Rutgers University ducked passed a security rope to kiss his companion goodbye.

On Saturday, Jules Paul Bouloute, 57, breached security at Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 8 by walking through an employees’ entrance. Flights were backed up for hours after the terminal was evacuated.

The Queens district attorney’s office charged Mr. Bouloute, a Haitian-American who was returning to New York after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, with felony criminal tampering in the first degree and several other lower-level trespassing counts on Sunday night. He could face up to seven years in prison on the felony charge.

At an arraignment in Queens Criminal Court, George Farrugia, an assistant district attorney, said that Mr. Bouloute had signed a statement written by a detective in which he said he got lost looking for a taxi and went through a door into a restricted area.

“I went through a door and the alarm went off, and I kept walking because I was lost,” the prosecutor said, reading from the statement. Mr. Farrugia said that Mr. Bouloute’s actions cost American Airlines $10 million and affected about 4,000 travelers. He asked the judge to hold Mr. Bouloute on $50,000 bail. The judge, however, released Mr. Bouloute on his own recognizance.

Mr. Bouloute’s lawyer said that his client had traveled from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, then to Orlando, Fla., as he tried to return home.

“He got lost coming back from the airport,” said the lawyer, Scott Dufault. “Imagine what this gentleman has been through. This gentleman is not a terrorist, a troublemaker. He’s a citizen.”

Mr. Dufault added: “To be confused is not a felony. This is an accident.”

According to a government official briefed on the case, Mr. Bouloute was seen by surveillance cameras walking through the employees’ entrance.

“He didn’t stick around after he went through the door,” said the official, who did not want to be identified because the investigation was continuing. “If he had stopped and waved his hand and said he went the wrong way, then this may have been averted. But he didn’t, and we had to go through normal protocol.”

Mr. Bouloute’s estranged wife, Marie Bouloute, said in an interview at her home in Brooklyn that her husband returned every few months from Haiti, and she added that he knew the procedures at the airport well.

“He’s not crazy,” Mrs. Bouloute said. “He’s not stupid.”

Vincent Henry, director of the Homeland Security Management Institute at Long Island University, said that the increased attention to airport screening had created other problems that the authorities have been forced to confront in recent years.

“Most of these buildings were built before 9/11 and were meant to move large amounts of people quickly,” Dr. Henry said in a telephone interview. “So many of these buildings have been retrofitted for security purposes, and when you do that, there are holes. Obviously there are still holes in the system both in regards to personnel and technology.”


Source : http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/nyregion/18jfk.html