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Newark Airport Flunks a Bomb Test

Screeners spot the fake device in luggage, only to lose it. The bag gets flown to Amsterdam.

December 16, 2004|From Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — Baggage screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport spotted -- and then lost -- a fake bomb planted in luggage by a supervisor during a training exercise.

Despite searching for hours Tuesday night, they couldn't find the bag containing a fake bomb complete with wires, a detonator and a clock. The bag made it onto an Amsterdam-bound flight and was recovered by airport security officials when the flight landed there Wednesday.

"This really underscores the importance of the TSA's ongoing training exercises," said Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible for screening passengers and baggage for weapons and explosives.

"At no time did the bag pose a threat and at no time was anyone in danger."

French authorities lost a bag this month containing real explosives that were being used to train bomb-sniffing dogs. That led French authorities to prohibit using live explosives in tests.

New Jersey Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank R. Lautenberg wrote Wednesday to TSA chief David Stone, calling the loss of the fake bomb "alarming" and asking for an investigation.

The Newark incident was the latest embarrassment for screeners at one of the airports from which some of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers took off.

In October, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported screeners missed one in four fake explosives and weapons in secret weekly tests conducted throughout the summer by TSA agents.

In Tuesday night's test, a TSA supervisor placed the bomb, which was designed to resemble the plastic explosive Semtex, inside a bag that was put through screening machines, Davis said.

A baggage screening machine sounded an alarm, but workers somehow lost track of the bag, which was then loaded onto a Continental Airlines flight.

No flights were delayed and the terminal remained open.

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