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Teen stowaway video raises concern about airport security, access

Authorities are investigating if any more security video exists showing a teenager who bypassed security at a San Jose airport and stowed away in the wheel well of a Hawaii-bound jetliner.

In a statement Monday, airport officials said they have video of the 15-year-old walking on the airport tarmac toward a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 on Sunday, but it remains unclear how the teen got onto the tarmac. The FBI originally said video showed him scaling a fence. But late Monday, airport officials only mentioned a video that showed him walking on the tarmac.

Mineta San Jose International Airport, which serves Silicon Valley, is located on the north side of San Jose, near the junction of the 101 and 880 freeways. A chain-link fence covered with wood slats and topped with three strands of razor wire surrounds parts of the airport. San Jose is the 44th largest airport in the nation, according to a Federal Aviation Administration report, with about 8 million passengers a year.

"People go over the fence, they're caught. But he got all the way to the aircraft," said Jeff Price, an aviation security expert at Metropolitan State University in Denver. "The question it brings up is: What's to stop somebody from putting a bomb on the plane with the same method?"

Brian Jenkins, an aviation security expert at Rand Corp., said it's unclear whether an adequate security system was poorly monitored or whether safeguards needed to be revamped entirely.

"If he was on the camera, why wasn't there a response? Was no one watching the monitors?" Jenkins said. "The first question will be: 'Gee, the cameras work, the response didn't. Was it just missed and they went back and searched through that time frame and oops — there he is?'"

It wasn't until Sunday morning that the teen was seen wandering around the tarmac in Maui in what experts said was shockingly good physical condition.

Though the wayward teenager was probably guilty of criminal trespass, the San Jose Police Department had no intention of pursuing criminal charges, according to an FBI official also following up on the case.

Jenkins, however, said he expected Sunday’s incident to prompt airport security reviews beyond San Jose.

"Everyone will tighten up. I suspect everyone will be going up a notch just as a consequence of this," he said.

Airport personnel in Hawaii said they had turned the boy over to Hawaii's child protection office, which said it was preparing to return the boy home.


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