April 24, 2008
A pilot's laptop, filled with top secret security information was
reported missing at Dulles Airport and the ripple effects were felt
across the country.
The Mesa Airlines employee couldn't find the personal laptop he brought
with him while co-piloting a United Express flight from Birmingham,
Alabama to Dulles International Airport (web|news) .
17 airports were forced to make emergency changes to access codes at
Dulles, Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago's O'Hare and San Antonio.
Various officials within the airline industry admit that with these
access codes, someone who went though security could, with the touch of
a few buttons, get onto a plane or get outside, right below a plane.
A TSA spokesperson said, "On April 17, Mesa Airlines notified TSA that
an employee reported a laptop, containing confidential information, had
been misplaced, lost or stolen."
Federal and airline officials admitted that the classified codes on the
computer provided the pilot, through a keypad, access from the gate to
the plane and down to ground level right below the plane.
Passengers were appalled. "That's just a major security breach for
everyone that flies within the United States."
One airline insider tells ABC 7 News the laptop was probably stored in
an overhead compartment used by passengers and likely stolen.
Federal officials quickly contacted 17 U.S. airports used by the pilot,
warning them of the security breach. Media representatives for a number
of those airports affected, including Dulles, Phoenix and Akron-Canton
said the codes were promptly changed. ABC 7 News learned one security
official at a midwest airport rushed to work in the middle of the night
to prevent a breach.
A Mesa Airlines spokesperson said, "Any breach of aviation security is
of primary concern to Mesa Airlines and we are fully cooperating with
Meanwhile, a TSA official said the agency, "may look at increasing the
standards for anyone who stores this type of information on their
Airline officials said they have very little to go on because they don't
know if the pilot was targeted or if it was a crime of opportunity. A
spokesperson for Dulles said airport police are investigating.
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