New York, NY - March 31, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct an immediate and thorough review of Port Authority security procedures at the World Trade Center site, after a series of disturbing incidents have underscored the potentially weak security at the site. In the last several weeks alone, a 16-year old boy managed to avoid security and climb to the spire; it came to light that three skydivers had managed to climb to the top of the site to leap off the building; sleeping security guards were discovered; and the head of security resigned. Schumer said that the feds have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in security at the site and DHS must ensure those funds are being used effectively. Schumer said that the consequences could have been disastrous if the individuals who broke into the site had intentions to harm New Yorkers.
Schumer also today urged the Port Authority board to approve the restructuring of the financial agreement for 3 World Trade Center, which would allow the construction and leasing of the building to continue apace.
“The Freedom Tower should have top-notch, foolproof security, not something that can be fooled by a teenager and a couple of daredevils,” said Schumer. “It’s disconcerting that within six months, there have been a number of safety breaches involving such obvious problems as a hole in a fence. The Department of Homeland Security should make sure the city’s number one terror threat is safe from future harm and move forward with a federal review of security procedures at the World Trade Center site.”
On March 16th, a 16-year old New Jersey boy slipped through a hole in the fence, past security guards and climbed to the top of the country’s number one terrorist target, the World Trade Center. After having been on the site for two hours, the teen was caught. Six days after the teen’s incident, media reports pointed to yet another security guard sleeping at the World Trade Center at 2:45 in the morning. And last year, three parachute jumpers dove off the World Trade Center; reports suggest they may have snuck through the same hole as the 16-year old boy.
Schumer said that security has obviously been a high priority at the World Trade Center construction site, with governments and private companies at all levels spending tens of millions of dollars to make the site secure. Schumer said that DHS needs to make sure that these dollars are being well spent and that the location is being well protected. For example, according to media reports, a surveillance system for the World Trade Center for the more immediate term was purchased in August but has yet to be installed.
Schumer today urged DHS to immediately conduct a safety review of the Port Authority’s procedures at the World Trade Center site. Schumer said that DHS should make sure that the Port Authority is doing everything it can to prevent any other security breaches from occurring. For example, Schumer will say that DHS should survey the entire perimeter of the building for possible points of illegal entry, ensure that security guards are well-trained and up to the task of protecting this landmark, and ensure that surveillance systems are installed and that they do not have any potential flaws or limitations.
A copy of Schumer’s letter appears below:
Dear Secretary Johnson,
I write to urge the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct an internal review of security procedures at the World Trade Center, which is owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). Last week, a 16 year old boy managed to sneak past four layers of security at the World Trade Center site, including a security guard sleeping on the job, and made it all the way to the spire, where he spent hours before he was discovered by a construction worker. Given the symbolic nature of this site, also known as Freedom Tower, is widely considered the top terrorist target in the country. These kinds of lapses in security are unacceptable and further investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security must be conducted to examine whether this is a systemic problem and action is needed to boost security at the site.
On March 16th, a 16-year old New Jersey boy named Justin Casquejo slipped through a hole in the fence around the perimeter at the World Trade Center, past security guards and climbed to the top of the spire. After having been on the site for two hours, Casquejo was finally caught by a construction worker. Six days after the incident, the media revealed that a security guard named Abdul Basher was caught sleeping on the job at 2:45 AM after a high-ranking Port Authority official used his smartphone to snap a photo of him reclining in a chair during a surprise inspection. Furthermore, three men on Monday posted a video on YouTube of themselves parachute jumping off the top of the World Trade Center September 13, 2013. Reports suggest they may have snuck through the same hole that 16-year Justin Casquejo may crawled through. All of these breaches of security in a short period of succession point some serious flaws in the security at the World Trade Center site that need to be addressed immediately before terrorist actors seeking to do harm are the ones who break through.
Since the September 11th attacks, the World Trade Center has been under construction. When completed, the site will have a security system costing tens of millions. According to the Port Authority, $478 million in federal funding was allocated for a new World Trade Center Vehicle Security Center project; and all vehicles that enter the site via the underground road way must be screened. According to media reports, a surveillance system for the World Trade Center was purchased in August but has yet to be installed. The security plan surrounding the site is more commonly known as the “Ring of Steel” and is supposed to be an impregnable, multi – layered set of measures encircling the World Trade Center. A tremendous amount of resources are being committed to secure the site, yet they seem to be failing at an alarming rate. The plan involves 25 barriers, 13 guard booths, and a large number of streets are being closed or restricted to traffic. Additionally it involves over a thousand police officers, counterterrorism forces, and security guards protecting the site.
I urge you to have the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conduct an internal review into the security plan of the site and address any flaws that may be allowing unauthorized individuals to make their way into the site undetected. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
Charles E. Schumer
Image by Mario Ortiz via Wikimedia.