TSA investigating security breach at New York's JFK airport

Last Updated Feb 21, 2017 7:43 AM EST

The Transportation Security Administration is investigating a breach at one of the nation’s busiest airports. Eleven people passed through a security checkpoint that wasn’t fully supervised at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport early Monday morning. The passengers were able to make it all the way onto their planes without further screening.  

Sources tell CBS News TSA officers were in the process of opening a pre-check lane when the passengers walked through an unattended metal detector. The TSA believes two supervisors were aware of the breach within minutes but it wasn’t reported until a third supervisor saw it on video at least an hour later, says CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

At about 6 a.m., the passengers walked through an unsupervised metal detector at JetBlue’s Terminal 5. Three of the 11 set off the device’s alarm and continued to their gate without a secondary screening. But airport police weren’t notified until up to two hours later, when officers began a search of the terminal.

Security camera footage captured images of at least two of the people who set off the alarm. All three were identified only after boarding a flight to San Francisco. They were re-screened after landing.

“The most vulnerable time for any kind of check point is in a transition period,” aviation security expert Sheldon Jacobson said.

Jacobson said airport security is weakest early in the morning and during shift changes.

“I believe the TSA has to look at their procedures at those transition points,” Jacobson said. “We need to follow the procedures to ensure the integrity of the air system and security that is afforded to it.”

Monday’s incident is the latest in a recent string of embarrassments for the TSA, including crippling long lines and failed security tests. President Trump has yet to appoint a new TSA administrator following the resignation of former head Peter Neffenger last month.

The agency has introduced hundreds of additional officers and new technology to handle the roughly two million passengers screened daily at about 450 airports nationwide. But security gaffes leave some passengers concerned.

“That’s scary. It’s dangerous. In today’s times, it’s really dangerous,” traveler Anu Joseph said.

The TSA said all 11 passengers’ carry-on bags were properly screened and a K9 team was working the checkpoint area. The eight passengers who did not set off the metal detector have not been identified. The agency indicated it will discipline or retrain employees as needed. In a statement, TSA said: “We are confident this incident presents no threat to the aviation transportation system.”