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JFK Terminal 5 Briefly Evacuated As Airport Security Remains High Following Istanbul Attack

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- With stepped up security already in place at local airports and across the nation following the terror attack in Turkey, there was a brief scare Wednesday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport after a police dog flagged an unattended bag.

As CBS2's Lou Young reported, the bomb scare at Terminal 5 sent passengers running.

Around 8:30 a.m., a Department of Homeland Security K-9 unit sat down next to the bag in a non-secure area of the terminal, Port Authority spokesman Joe Pentangelo said. The dogs are trained to sit down next to items of concern.

Police evacuated the area around the bag and passengers were sent outside along the roadway as the bomb squad was called in.

"A lot of police say, 'Get out, get out,'" one passenger told CBS2's Magdalena Doris. "Some people were crying."

The bag, which contained clothing, was inspected and cleared by police. Nothing dangerous was found and the terminal was reopened about an hour later.

But security expert David Boehm told CBS2 the very existence of a dropoff zone so close to the terminal bothers him.

"This whole area right here, any vehicle can pull up, set off an explosive and create massive damage," he said.

The lesson of Istanbul after the attack that killed at least 41 people is that security perimeters themselves can be targets when terrorists attack.

The attackers in Istanbul had grenades, suicide vests and military assault rifles. Despite the frightening death toll, Boehm said it could have been much worse.

It wasn't a security failure; it was actually a security success," he said.

In Brussels earlier this year, bombs were detonated inside the terminal. In Istanbul on Tuesday, they were stopped at terminal entrances – underlining just how difficult a task this is.

"It can be perhaps just seconds after somebody gets out of a car -- or a taxi in this case -- walks into the public side of the terminal, and starts the attack," said John Pistole, president of Anderson University and a former Transportation Security Administration administrator. "It's very, very difficult to stop that in each and every instance."

At U.S. airports, the experts told CBS2 that airside security beyond the TSA checkpoints is excellent compared with the soft-target zone on the other side, like the area inside the arrivals hall at JFK Terminal 4.

Security has been tight at JFK, as well as LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports since Tuesday's bombing at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.

The assault on yet another soft target has the NYPD and Port Authority police safeguarding airports and other places where civilians gather.

"The security is clearly heightened at this point," said Bert Shulman, who was picking up a passenger at JFK. "I was waiting over there and no one else was there but the security people moved us out."

"Security is at high risk, so they are here and it's a nice presence," said Pamela Pagan, who was dropping off a passenger.

Air travelers were keeping their fears at realistic levels.

"They're a little more organized, and they're not allowing people into areas where that one could go into in the past," said air traveler Alvin Ekes. "You can't stop living, you know, because of what has happened somewhere else."

Some Istanbul to New York travelers dodged the attack by just a few hours.

Anil Ince was on a flight from Istanbul when he heard people talking. He checked the Internet and found out what had happened. He lives in Ankara, the site of several recent terror bombings.

"Yeah, unfortunately all Turkish people are frightened," he told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman.

The bombing in Turkey is the second international attack on a major airport this year. The bombing at an airport in Brussels killed 32 in March.

In a statement Tuesday, the Port Authority said police have "added high visibility patrols equipped with tactical weapons and equipment" at all three of its airports.

"The agency continues to monitor the situation in Turkey and is collaborating with federal, state and local law enforcement partners," it said, adding that the action is "in addition to the diverse counter-terrorism patrols at various Port Authority facilities following the attack on an Orlando club earlier this month."

Meanwhile, police Commissioner Bill Bratton said his people are evaluating the tactics used by the terrorists in Istanbul.

"We believe that many if not most of the victims were the victims of gunfire rather than the bombs themselves, and that is information that is always of interest to us. Are they changing tactics? Are they changing strategies?" Bratton said.

To confront the new threats, there is continued pressure to widen the security perimeter at all U.S. airports. Boehm said changes to eliminate traditional pickup and dropoff zones are already in the works.

"Any vehicle can pull up, set off an explosive and cause massive damage," Boehm said. "At some point, you'll see that no vehicles will be allowed in these lanes. All vehicles – you'll have to park from a further distance away and bring your luggage over. That will eventually happen."

The NYPD says there is no credible threat to New York City, but said they are continuing to monitor the situation.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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