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Jetskier Unwittingly Exposes JFK Airport Security Faults, Gets Arrested

JFK airport on Jamaica Bay | Flickr Photo by The West End

A man who was out drinking with his friends and decided it would be fun to race and see who had the fastest jet ski has been arrested for criminal trespassing after breaching security at JFK Airport in New York. The breach occurred after his jet ski broke down in Jamaica Bay, and, after his friends did not realize he was missing in action, he swam three miles toward the lights he saw on a runway that sticks out into the bay.

ABC News reports this individual, Daniel Casillo, 31, entered the airport grounds on Friday night. He “climbed an eight-foot barbed-wire perimeter fence and walked undetected through the airport’s Perimeter Intrusion Detection System and across two runways into Delta’s terminal 3.” Having bypassed motion sensors and closed-circuit cameras that are designed to detect “terrorists,” Casillo, in a bright yellow life jacket that was “dripping wet,” approached a Delta employee. He was then charged with committing a crime.

He, according to the New York Post, had no IDs, money or car keys. That had all sunk with his jet ski.

The correct reaction to this man’s feat should be that of gratitude. Like NYPD veteran and former MTA deputy security director for counterterrorism Nicholas Casale said, “I think he should be given dinner and a bottle of champagne for showing us our faults.” After all, he was not a “lone wolf.” He did not turn out to be some kind of Timothy McVeigh-like character with military experience, who decided to come in off the bay area and launch some kind of an attack. He had an accident and apparently had nowhere else to go but the runway.

One should not be saying, “What was he thinking?” There is no way anyone in his situation would not have seen that they had no choice but to swim ashore. So, what people should be asking is why there was no person to receive Casillo when he made it onto land. Shouldn’t there have been someone there guarding the area in case something happened in the bay?

The answer appears to be yes. The New York Port Authority has responded with “increased patrols by boat of the surrounding waterway.”

Furthermore, this inadvertent act has possibly brought to light corruption, such as the waste of millions of dollars for a Raytheon contract that appears to have purchased a system that may not have caught a vigilante prior to Friday night. The New York Port Authority union, the Police Benevolent Association, is now taking this opportunity to call for a Port Authority “inspector’s general investigation into the failed Perimeter Intrusion Detection System, the cost over-runs and the relationship between the Port Authority and Raytheon, the vendor.”

The system is a $100 million security system. For that, one would think the Port Authority could light up a force field around the airport that was impossible to get through no matter where one stepped.

Casillo’s accident provides opportunity to question the entire Transportation Security Administration (TSA) apparatus and ask, with a security culture that treats us all as suspects (and some of us as bigger suspects than others), why are we letting government invasively search and violate our privacy when there are contracts with corporations for systems that we cannot be certain even work? If we’re going to fly and entirely forego our civil liberties while in airports, the least government can do is spend millions of dollars on a system that cannot be breached. And since it is a near certainty no security system will ever be impenetrable, the real issue is the culture of “security”—the commitment to creating the illusion of security that really is just about government helping security companies make millions of dollars in profits off fears of terrorism.

These kinds of security breaches actually happen more often than one thinks. Last week, at Miami International Airport, a drunk Norwegian fell asleep on a luggage conveyor belt. Telegraph reported, “The man ultimately traveled for 15 minutes through ostensibly secure baggage areas of Fiumicino airport before security officials saw him on an X-ray display.” The senior airport police office shrugged off the incident saying, “Drunks or people with psychological problems” usually happen ‘once a year.'” (So, drunk breaches, okay. People with turbans or head dresses we don’t like, bend over and spread ’em, please.)

No, Casillo should not be convicted or charged with committing any crime. A person should not be criminalized for an accident, not even in a so-called post-9/11 world. That is the problem with security culture. A mother can be forced to pump breast milk or an elderly woman can have her colostomy bag searched because we can’t be too certain. An entire airport can be shut down because a person wanders the wrong way. A person can be detained because they spent too much time in the bathroom. It is absurd and repressive and must be entertaining to the handful of extremists abroad, who delight in the fact that creeping totalitarianism has taken over American society in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.

Say whatever about Casillo’s life choice to race his friends while likely drunk on his jet ski, but that should have no bearing on the fact that if this person has to pay a fine or go to jail after a conviction it will be another indictment of the hysteria that consumes the powerful whom control the security apparatuses of this country.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."