Haisong Jiang, the Rutgers grad student whose romantic impulse control issues shut down Newark Airport for six hours, delayed travelers nationally and exposed a gaping hole in Newark’s security was taken into custody by Port Authority Police last night.
Jiang, a chinese national, was seeing off his girlfriend on January 3, and slipped under the security rope into an area for pre-screened passengers to spend twenty extra minutes with her before her plane took off for Los Angeles. Another passenger noticed, and notified airport security, who were forced to shut down the airport for six hours to rescreen passengers. The ripple effect delayed hundreds of flights and thousands of passengers.
Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Rep. Payne, all of New Jersey, held a press conference on Wednesday hitting the TSA for the absence of the guard, as well as the fact that, as it turns out, the TSA security cameras in the terminal weren’t working, and hadn’t been working since December 28th.
According to the TSA, the Port Authority, which operates the cameras, never told them there was a problem. Also according to the TSA, there was no way of knowing that the cameras, which were supplying live video feeds, weren’t recording anything, since video is only checked if there’s an incident.
The video footage which was eventually released comes from a Continental Airlines camera, and police weren’t notified of the incident for an hour while the TSA was obtaining and reviewing the Continental footage. It took a while to do that, apparently, because the TSA had the wrong contact number for Continental operations.
So: a single guard in a crowded area, no physical barrier, no working cameras, delay in notifying local authorities, ineffective communications, and the weekend after New Years. Not good.
Hernandez is being represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, who say that he’s received commendations for outstanding service in his two and a half years on the job. They’re investigating reports that Hernandez was investigating a disturbance in the ninety seconds he was away from his post. Hernandez is not a member of the union, which is concerned that he’s being scapegoated. There is currently no-one running the TSA because Senator DeMint is concerned about employees like Hernandez being represented by unions.
The TSA has assigned a second guard to the corridor in question.
Jiang is charged with “defiant trespassing,” a petty disorderly person offense, which applies to someone who ignores verbal warnings, posted notices, or fencing designed to exclude intruders. The videotape of the incident shows Jiang being warned repeatedly by the TSA Guard to stay out of the pre-screened passenger area, which was clearly posted, and ducking under a security tape when the guard was away from his post. A spokesman for the Essex County District Attorney says that the feds are leaving it to local officials, as no federal charges apply.