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King: JFK breach 'serious security breakdown'

Airplanes on the runway of John F. Kennedy

Airplanes on the runway of John F. Kennedy International Airport as a boater passes by on the waters of Head Of Bay, located in Queens. (Aug. 13, 2012) Credit: Uli Seit

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called the breach of a $100-million fence around Kennedy Airport by a Queens man on Friday "a serious security breakdown" that could be the focus of congressional hearings.

Port Authority police have charged Daniel Castillo, 32, of Howard Beach, with criminal trespass, according to the police report.

He was riding a personal watercraft that broke down about 7:45 p.m. Friday in Jamaica Bay. Castillo, wearing a bright yellow vest, swam ashore, climbed the 8-foot fence, crossed two runways -- 4R-22L and 4L-22R -- and walked to Terminal 3, where an airport worker alerted authorities. Castillo told officers "I needed help," according to the police report.

"It seems like a lot went wrong," King (R-Seaford) said Monday. "He [Castillo] walked through a number of secure areas. This is serious security breakdown."

Kevin Fogarty, King's spokesman, said the incident "very likely" would be the subject of hearings before the Homeland Security Committee.

Castillo had no hostile intent that law enforcement was aware of, King said.

"The bad part is a guy who didn't know what he was doing was able to breach a $100-million security system," said King, who had previously scheduled a tour of JFK Airport next week to address security issues.

The same fencing and electronic surveillance system also is used at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, and Newark Liberty and Teterboro airports in New Jersey, officials said.

Port Authority officials and representatives from Raytheon Co., which designed the Perimeter Intrusion Detection System, were reviewing data at the airport Monday to determine what happened Friday night.

"Raytheon is working very closely with the Port Authority to determine the situation based on available data," company spokesman Jon Kasle said.

King said the security-fence system uses surveillance cameras, radar and motion detectors. Police officials described the system as a mix of fencing, concrete barriers and electronic detection.

Port Authority spokesman Anthony Hayes said that as part of the contract with Raytheon, the authority's three major airports "have similar systems." Hayes would not comment on what the Port Authority review of Friday's incident revealed.

"Because we're still going through the review process, digging through all of this, anything would be speculation," Hayes said Monday.

The Transportation Security Administration is working with investigating authorities, agency spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

In July 2011, a naked man swimming in Jamaica Bay came ashore near Kennedy's main fuel tanks despite the airport's perimeter security system. An officer on patrol saw the man, who was charged with trespassing.

"We've been bringing it to the Port Authority's attention for years as a faulty technology," said Bobby Egbert, a spokesman for the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association.

The police union Monday sent a letter to Port Authority executive director Patrick Foye asking him to request the authority's inspector general investigate the Raytheon contract.

With John Valenti

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