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PA: Obama threat suspect had passed background checks

John Brek, appears on a closed circuit television

John Brek, appears on a closed circuit television for a video arraignment before Superior Court Judge Amilkar Velez-Lopez in Newark, N.J. (October 22, 2009) Credit: AP

A security guard charged in a shooting threat against President Barack Obama had cleared extensive state and federal background checks, the Port Authority said Friday.

Screening for security guards is under the spotlight after an unarmed Newark Liberty International Airport guard, John Brek, 55, of Linden, N.J., was charged with three state felony counts after he was allegedly overheard making comments while on a coffee break a day before Obama was due to fly into the airport. Brek, a six-year employee of Floral Park-based FJC Security Services, has pleaded not guilty. One charge against Brek is for knowingly receiving a stolen rifle.

New Jersey State Police licensed Brek as a security guard after he met the required criminal-background checks, the Port Authority, which has a contract with FJC, said Friday. Brek also received authority clearance to work at Newark Liberty after he cleared its required FBI and 10-year background screening, an authority official said.

But a former police officer and chief executive of a national securities firm said such screenings aren't always enough to weed out bad seeds. Michael Evans, chief executive of security firm USPA Nationwide, said a psychological evaluation also should have been required.

"I can see how it happened," Evans said. "People put their best foot forward in their job interview."

Psychological evaluation isn't required under New Jersey state security guard licensing requirements, however. Prosecutors are seeking a psychiatric evaluation as part of their case against Brek.

Evans said contractors should require private security firms to perform psychological tests on employees. "It's very hard to know what people are actually thinking," he said.

The Port Authority's contract with FJC places 650-plus guards systemwide, excluding LaGuardia and Kennedy airports. About 200 are assigned to Newark Liberty. FJC Security didn't return calls inquiring into whether it independently seeks such evaluations of security guards.

New Jersey lawmakers passed a 2004 bill requiring licenses and completion of a 24-hour training course for security guards, but it took three years for the system to fully take effect.

Brek first applied for his license in June 2007 and renewed his two-year certification on May 27 this year, passing federal and state background checks, said Det. Sgt. 1st Class Jim Bryan of the New Jersey State Police, which handles the licensing.

"We'll be reviewing the investigation, and the [state] superintendent will make the determination whether to revoke his security officer certification or not," Bryan said, adding he took part in talks on whether to require psychological and random drug tests as part of the bill, but lawmakers nixed those proposals.

Bryan said an arrest or conviction in New Jersey puts a flag on the guard's license, but it's only upon the two-year renewal that their backgrounds are checked in the other 49 states.

With Ellen Yan

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