Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
April 30, 2014  
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Questions TSA Administrator on Security Breach at San Jose International Airport  

Senator Asks Why the Agency Rated San Jose International Airport’s Security as “Compliant” Just Three Weeks Before 15-year-old Boy Jumped a Fence and Stowed Away in Wheel Well on a Flight to Maui

Washington, D.C. – At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) questioned Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John S. Pistole on why his agency completed a 3-month review of security at San Jose International Airport and rated the airport as “compliant” just three weeks before a 15-year-old boy scaled a fence and climbed into the wheel well of a flight to Maui undetected by airport security.  

Senator Boxer obtained a copy of a non-classified summary by the TSA of the 3-month review the agency conducted between January 2 and March 28, 2014 – just three weeks before the April 20 security breach at the airport. The document calls the TSA security review a “comprehensive inspection of the SJC airport” and notes that it took inspectors 82.5 hours to complete. The review concludes that San Jose International Airport “was found to be in compliance with its security requirements for perimeter systems and measures; including the fence line.”  

A copy of the document, which was provided by TSA in response to questions from the Senator’s staff, is posted on the Senator’s website here.  

At the hearing, Senator Boxer pressed Administrator Pistole about the agency’s comprehensive inspection of San Jose International Airport’s security. Video of the exchange at the hearing is available here. A portion of the transcript is below:  

Senator Boxer: “Are you concerned that your organization cleared this airport just three weeks before and said they were in compliance, including physical barriers and electronic access control systems?” 

Administrator Pistole: “I would like to draw a distinction between what our regulatory compliance work is to say they have the systems in place. The question is, do they work at every instance? And there is no 100 percent solution here, Senator, as you know. So we can build fortresses around airports for access.” 

Boxer: “But where’s the layered defense? What’s the layered defense here?” 

Pistole: “There are a number of opportunities. There could be armed officers or with canines out patrolling. There could be better CCTV coverage, there could be a second fence in some situations. You could look at Ben Gurion Airport to see what they do.” 

Boxer: “Well, let’s do it. I don’t want to take any more time, I just want to say this: You cleared them and that’s troubling to me. Why didn’t you know that they didn’t have the dogs? Is something wrong here? I’m very worried about this, because it isn’t enough to fill out a piece of paper and say ‘check.’ This is really serious business. Really serious business. What if it was someone else with an explosive that got on that plane?”  

A full copy of the transcript is available upon request.  

After the hearing, Senator Boxer said she would be sending Administrator Pistole follow-up information on airports in California and elsewhere that are taking additional steps to secure their perimeters, including using perimeter intrusion detection systems to help protect against security breaches.