Local News

Questions Surround RDU Security Breach

Posted December 20, 2006

— A day after a disoriented man was found aboard a Delta Airlines jet at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, security experts are questioning the airport's security system.

The man climbed a barbed wire fence at the perimeter of the airport and boarded an empty plane, where a cleaning crew found  him at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday and turned him over to police, authorities said.

Gregory Scott Wester, 32, of 30 Old Mill Road in Fuquay-Varina, has been charged by RDU police with first-degree trespassing and possession of a controlled substance, authorities said. The FBI and the Transportation Security Administration also charged him with access to an aircraft without permission.

Wester is being held at the Wake County Jail and is scheduled to appear in federal court on Friday.

RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin downplayed the security breach Tuesday, saying no one was harmed in the incident and that the various layers of security at the airport worked together to thwart any threat to people or aircraft.

But David Schanzer, the director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said relying on cleaning crews and other personnel to catch potential hijackers isn't good enough to ensure safety.

"If we are just relying on a fence and having people notice, that's not really good," Schanzer said. "To have excellent security, you need to have a much more automated system that will detect these types of entries and notify people in real time."

Durham-based Knowledge Vector has created such a system, and it is being tested at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. When a sensor is tripped, software determines the credibility of the threat and immediately notifies the closest first responder if it determines the threat is real.

Knowledge Vector Chief Executive Lee Bryan said he believes the system could have prevented the security breach at RDU.

"The video subsystem would have been deployed with a pan-zoom-tilt camera to pick him up. We would have a picture of him before he even got near the tarmac," Bryan said.

"Obviously, something fell down in the (RDU security) system to even get close to the airplane," he said.

Although the 7-foot-high, barbed wire fence around RDU meets TSA requirements, Hamlin said, airport officials are reviewing security procedures. They already planned to update the security system for entry into some doors and gates and are looking at whether changes should be made to the perimeter fencing as well, she said.

"We will make changes and refinements as needed," Hamlin said.

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  • ian2 Dec 21, 2006

    It's almost laughable listening to the comments of the so-called security experts referring to this matter. The fact is that that highly reliable perimeter security intrusion detection systems have been around for years now and the reason they are not installed is simply money. Many airport perimeter fences are in poor repair and simply do not measure up to the task if delaying intruder entry. This means that to ensure best operation of perimeter intrusion detection systems, the perimeter fence needs first to be upgraded. The cost of this is many times more than the detection system. My own company supplies intrusion detection systems for the Israeli border fence at a cost of typically $15 per meter and these systems are the most stringently tested and highly performing systems in the world. Hardly an excessive cost compared to the money being poured into detection of nail clippers and baby oil!!

  • RAINDOG Dec 21, 2006


  • BIG YAWN Dec 21, 2006

    Well one thing's for sure. He exposed a weakness that's going to get taken care of. It won't happen again! I wonder if this is the first time he's done it?

  • BIG YAWN Dec 21, 2006

    Well one thing's for sure. He exposed a weakness that's going to get taken care of. It won't happen again! I wonder if this is the first time he's done it?

  • tarheelblue919 Dec 20, 2006

    this entire war started because of "plane incidents"? right? im not knowledged on enough info to say whether or not the war is right or wrong, its ups and downs to both sides. but in my opinion we need to worry more about here, and a little less about there. obviously we havent gotten this security issue down pat, they gonna catch those fingernail clippers in your purse or the mountain dew in your bag....but they totally miss a human being climbing over a barbed wire fence, which couldnt have been easy, hmmmm...seems like things are a little backwards. what if that guy was a terrorist? the possibilities of what he could have done is horrifying!

  • spamthissucka Dec 20, 2006

    You can't really stop anyone from doing anything, regardless of whether they have bad intentions. That's why these new TSA requirements are incredibly dumb. You can't bring 3 ounces of liquid but you can sneak a person on board. Imagine if the guy had acted like he was supposed to be there?

  • moorerlgh Dec 20, 2006

    i'm wondering how long it takes to climb a 7 foot fence....in broad daylight it would be hard to miss. the fact he made it to the top without getting caught is amazing, but all the way inside a plane??

  • Wake and District Dec 20, 2006

    FAILURE - plan and simple.

  • BlarneyStone Dec 20, 2006

    Mindy Hamlin says no one was harmed. So apparently that makes this incident okay? The airport needs to quit the spin and take a hard look at what happend and how to prevent it in the future. This is serious. And if wasn't as serious as the airport plays it out to be, why would the TSA and Delta cancel the flight? RDU should always be thinking about "what ifs."