New York: Four guns belonging to the personal bodguards of Israel`s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have gone missing after arriving in New York, deeply embarrassing American officials.
The search for those four 9 mm semi-automatic Glock 17 pistols now "is priority No 1 in American law-enforcement”, a Port Authority police official told The New York Post.
"They [the Port Authority] have opened up the check books on this one," said the official about the massive security screw-up.
The FBI and Secret Service have joined the probe, which is being led by the PA.
The Post has learned that American Airlines -- whose corporate-affiliated plane was supposed to be carrying the missing guns on a flight to Washington on Sunday -- has authorised a search of workers` lockers at JFK Airport in Queens because of the possibility that the guns were stolen at the airport and then stashed in one of those locker. Police are also interviewing American Airlines workers.
The multi-day international snafu began on Sunday, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s security team arrived landed at JFK between 5 and 6 am on an El Al flight from Israel.
Among the team`s luggage was seven guns -- three in a so-called Pelican carrying case, and the four 9mm semi-automatic Glock 17 pistols in another Pelican case, a source said.
The weapons then were transported from the El Al plane, and were supposed to be placed in the American Eagle plane that was to carry the agents that same day to Washington, DC -- where Netanyahu was scheduled to meet at the White House with President Obama on Tuesday.
A videotape taken by the Transportation Safety Administration -- the federal agency in charge of airport security -- shows both cases and the guns being examined by airport personnel and then re-sealed after being removed from the El Al plane, according to law-enforcement sources.
"That is the best evidence we have that the guns were actually here," said a source.
After that, "an incredible comedy of errors occurs, with everyone who touches the case [containing the four Glocks] screwing up," a source said.
When the Israeli security team arrived in Washington, they discovered that only the case containing the three guns had been shipped with them on the flight -- missing was the Pelican case containing the four Glocks.
The team immediately reported the missing case to a detective at the Washington airport, who in turn alerted other authorities to begin searching for the guns.
The case eventually was found in a Los Angeles airport only yesterday, according to the LA Times.
But instead of being opened there to check to see if the guns were inside, it was put on another plane for shipment to Washington via Chicago.
The case was not opened in Chicago after it landed there, and it continued on to Washington.
Authorities suspect the pistols were stolen at JFK, and that the culprits put the luggage on an LA-bound flight because it was the longest domestic flight out of the airport, giving them a lengthy head-start before the crime would come to light and be investigated.