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New TSA Chief Takes Heat From Washington Over DFW Security Scare

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WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - Sunday's security lapse at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport came up three different times in a Congressional committee hearing on Wednesday.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief Peter Neffenger has only been on the job since July 6 and in his first appearance before Congress since getting confirmed faced tough questions about the North Texas incident.

Traffic near Terminal D was diverted and a walkway closed after Damarias Cockerham of Garland walked right through a TSA security checkpoint without a ticket, photo ID or anyone questioning him.

Appearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, Neffenger said he's outraged. "It should not be easy and it should be impossible for somebody to make their way past a checkpoint without being observed. And it certainly should not be possible to get past a checkpoint to the point of getting on an aircraft without having known about it. So, we'll find out what happened there."

Several congressmen pressed Neffenger to expedite his agency's investigation and get them results to make sure a mistake like that doesn't happen again.

During the meeting Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wondered about the man behind the lapse. "I don't know how he [Cockerham] got past security completely untouched. And we don't know anything about this individual either I assume at this point and time?" McCaul asked. It was then  Neffenger relayed part of the lovelorn man's story saying, "What I can tell you is that the reports are that he was distraught over his girlfriend heading out of town and he wanted to stop her."

Cockerham, 26, made it all the way on-board American Airlines Flight 1013, boarding for Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Neffenger admitted there was a collapse in security. "Any potential for somebody to breach a barrier runs a potential for not just a safety issue, but obviously the security issue," he said. "So, I ordered an immediate review of that incident. I'm gonna find out what happened."

North Texas republican Congressman John Ratcliffe serves on the committee and said he expected better answers from the TSA Administrator. "I was a little surprised at how unaware Admiral Neffenger seemed to be about the incident or it may have just been that he wasn't willing to share a lot of information at this point," Ratcliffe said, adding, "I understand that the investigation is ongoing, but it's been three days and given the magnitude of this type of security breach I was hoping that he would be a little bit more forthcoming with where they were in the investigation."

While Damarias Cockerham appears to have just been emotionally distraught over his girlfriend, Ratcliffe stressed that he could have had nefarious intentions. "This incident at DFW on Sunday obviously this gentleman we know now is not a terrorist, but he could have been. So we were fortunate there."

As he spoke about the security structure at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Ratcliffe said he was particularly uneasy about where the security breach happened at the airport. "Another point that I think is concerning about this event…. is that it occurred at Terminal D out at DFW [Airport]. Terminal D is the newest terminal out there; it has the latest and greatest of everything. If we're having breaches in security at the newest terminal is something that gives me pause for concern."

Administrator Neffenger said he's still gathering facts about the incident and promised the committee he would make sure a quick report is a priority.

While Cockerham faces a criminal trespass charge, on Monday the TSA said it has made "adjustments" to the screening area at DFW Airport and "added more barriers".

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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