Baggage screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport spotted — and then lost — a fake bomb planted in luggage by a supervisor during a training exercise.
Despite an hours-long search Tuesday night, the bag, containing a fake bomb complete with wires, a detonator and a clock, made it onto an Amsterdam-bound flight. It was recovered by airport security officials in Amsterdam when the flight landed several hours later.
“This really underscores the importance of the TSA’s ongoing training exercises,” said Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible for screening passengers and baggage for weapons and explosives. “At no time did the bag pose a threat and at no time was anyone in danger.”
Earlier this month, French authorities lost a bag containing real explosives that were being used to train bomb-sniffing dogs. That led French authorities to prohibit using live explosives in future tests.
The incident at Newark Liberty International was only the latest embarrassment for screeners at one of the airports from which some of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers took off.
In October, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that screeners missed one in four fake explosives and weapons in secret weekly tests conducted throughout the summer by TSA agents.
In Tuesday night’s test, a TSA supervisor secretly placed the bomb, which was designed to resemble the plastic explosive Semtex, inside a bag that was put through screening machines, Davis said.
A baggage screening machine sounded an alarm, but workers somehow lost track of the bag, which was then loaded onto a Continental Airlines flight.
Despite the incident, no flights were delayed and the terminal remained open.
Davis said the TSA is still investigating how screeners lost track of the bag.
“It was an error that the bag was not intercepted before it was loaded,” she said, adding it was too soon to say if anyone would be disciplined for the failure.