The story of the heist at Brussels Airport the other day caught my eye. According to reports, eight men dressed up as cops drove an armored truck and an Audi sedan through a hole in the perimeter fence, brandished some machine guns to keep passengers at bay, then got into the cargo hold and took $50 million worth of diamonds — all in less than five minutes.
If that’s not the plot of a major motion picture within two years, Hollywood isn’t doing its job. Actually, it’s reminiscent of David Mamet’s 2001 screenplay for “Heist” (with Gene Hackman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Sam Rockwell, Delroy Lindo, Danny DeVito, and Ricky Jay) in which a SwissAir jet is stopped on the tarmac and a huge cache of diamonds is unloaded. But if there’s one thing we know about Hollywood, the fact that it’s been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done again.
What’s most shocking about the crime is the ease with which the real-life thieves were able to get through the airport perimeter without being noticed by security. But as Justin Peters points out on Slate.com, this is far from the first time that someone has been able to gain access to an airport by breaching perimeter security…
For all the money and attention that in-airport screening gets, the back doors to airports are, comparatively, wide open—and people go through them all the time. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey paid Raytheon at least $100 million for a perimeter intrusion detection system, only to be embarrassed last year when a stranded, dripping-wet jet skier hopped a fence at John F. Kennedy International Airport and walked across the tarmac and into the Delta terminal without attracting any attention.
In March 2012, an Adderall addict named Kenneth Mazik crashed his Jeep through a fence at Philadelphia International Airport and drove it up and down various runways before being stopped. In November 2012, an employee at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, having forgotten his lunch or jacket or something, had a friend toss a bag containing the item over the perimeter fence. Unfortunately, the bag got stuck on the fence, and a video shows the employee actually climbing up on the fence to get it down. Security didn’t notice.
There’s more. In July 2012, a pilot named Brian Hedglin used a rug to cover the razor wire at the perimeter fence at Utah’s St. George Municipal Airport; he then climbed the fence and attempted to steal a SkyWest Airlines jet. (After crashing the plane in a parking lot, Hedglin shot himself in the head.)
Think about those precedents next time you’re waiting in a long line at a TSA checkpoint with your shoes and belt and coat off, submitting to a virtual naked scan of your body. You could have saved time by going around the back with some wire cutters.