Newark: The man believed to have caused a security breach that resulted in major delays on Sunday at Newark Liberty Airport was arrested on Friday night at his home, authorities said, as the guard who failed to see the man bypass security was defended as a "model employee”.
Haisong Jiang, 28, of Piscataway was taken into custody at 7:30 pm on Friday at his home, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said. The arrest was made by Port Authority police. The Port Authority said in a statement that Jiang is being charged with defiant trespass, and that the charge was determined in coordination with Essex County prosecutors and federal officials.
It was not immediate clear whether Jiang has retained a lawyer.
"With this arrest, law enforcement will be able to take a closer look into how and why this incident occurred and make sure that it never happens again," said US Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, who had been pressing for surveillance video of the security breach to be publicly released.
A person with direct knowledge of the investigation said on Friday that the Transportation Security Administration worker who allegedly left his post is Ruben Hernandez of Newark. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is in progress.
TSA employees are not unionised, but the American Federation of Government Employees is representing him, said union spokesman Derrick Thomas. The union declined to publicly identify him. The TSA has said the guard has been on administrative leave since Tuesday.
The officer, who has been with the agency for 2 1/2 years, previously received a commendation for job performance, Thomas said.
"He`s been rated a model employee," he said. "We intend to fully represent him to make sure this whole investigation is handled correctly and that he`s not made a scapegoat for all that`s been going wrong with security at the airports."
The union is reviewing reports that the officer was called from his post to investigate a disturbance in the seconds before the security breach, Thomas said.
The breach led the TSA to shut down one of Newark Liberty International`s three terminals for six hours, stranding thousands of passengers and contributing to long delays.
On a surveillance video released on Thursday by the TSA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the guard is seen sitting at a security podium in an exit lane as passengers stream past on their way out of the terminal.
A man wearing a light-coloured jacket stands inside a rope barrier, and the guard approaches the man, apparently telling him to move behind the rope.
Within a minute, the guard leaves the podium again and disappears into the crowd. A woman in a long white coat approaches the podium from inside the terminal; the man sees her and ducks under the security rope, and the two walk past, arm in arm.
The man was seen on a separate surveillance camera leaving the terminal about 20 minutes later, according to the TSA. He has not been found, and his identity remains a mystery.
A bystander waiting for an arriving passenger noticed the breach and told the guard. TSA officials then discovered that surveillance cameras at the security checkpoint had not recorded the breach and were forced to consult backup security cameras operated by Continental Airlines.