Airport security breach spurs talks

By Ed Brock

Officials are discussing how to prevent another security breach at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport like the one that happened Wednesday.

Meanwhile, 31-year-old Robert Walter Buzzell of Warner Robins appeared in Clayton County Magistrate Court Thursday to hear the charges against him in the case. Police say that around 5 a.m. Wednesday Buzzell walked through a fire door at a secure location in the airport and started driving a luggage tractor down an active taxiway.

Buzzell has been charged with unlawful interference with security, reckless conduct and theft by taking in connection with the incident. During his first appearance Thursday afternoon a bond of $3,000 was set for the interference with security charge but denied in the other two charges, according to Clayton County Magistrate Court personnel.

A preliminary hearing in his case was scheduled for July 25.

Now officials with Hartsfield-Jackson, the Atlanta Police Department and the Transportation Security Administration have the job of finding out how the incident was allowed to happen.

"What we need to do today is aggressively review the chain of events to make sure we don't have a recurrence," said Yolanda Clark, TSA spokeswoman.

After Buzzell started driving the luggage tractor some Delta Air Lines mechanics confronted him and when he could not produce an employee identification or a pass they took him to the foreman's office where he was later arrested.

Buzzell told one of the employees that an alarm went off when he opened the door but nobody was around.

"That particular door is not wired to the 911 center," Atlanta Police Sgt. John Quigley said.

Quigley said he couldn't confirm reports that Buzzell was a passenger on a Delta flight but said Buzzell was in a secure area and he did have an itinerary.

Delta also would not confirm whether Buzzell was a passenger on one of their planes or make any other comments on details of the incident.

"We are working very closely with the TSA and the police department in the investigation," said Delta spokeswoman Peggy Estes.

According to the Atlanta Police report Buzzell did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Quigley said police investigators had spoken with Buzzell's father and had not determined if Buzzell suffers from a mental illness.

"This is kind of out of character for him as far as his family is concerned," Quigley said.

Clark said that the TSA already plans to put into effect at the end of this month some new directives regarding access to secure and operational areas. She said she could not release the details of the directives.

The directives are derived from the TSA's ongoing analysis of threat information and evaluation of the system of security layers placed in the nation's airport, according to a statement by Mark Hatfield Jr., TSA Director of Communications and Public Information, on the TSA Web site.

"These orders are designed to fortify security and identify and disrupt potential threats to civil aviation," Hatfield says in the statement. "As part of these newly issued security directives, TSA will require enhanced background checks and improved access control for airport employees working in restricted areas."