Sandwich needles illustrate larger security flaw, expert says
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012 8:27AM EDT
An incident this week involving airline sandwiches laced with needles is not likely a direct act of terrorism, but does illustrate a serious security flaw, says a former FBI agent.
Investigators in the Netherlands and the U.S. are trying to pinpoint the origin of needles which were found in turkey sandwiches served on Delta flights between the two countries. According to the airline, what appear to be 2.5-centimetre needles were found in five sandwiches.
Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent, said the situation illustrates the potential for a more serious attack.
"It's clearly a hole or vulnerability to get something aboard a plane. For example could you put C4 inside a sandwich and get it inside... is that possible? It probably is," Garrett told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.
"The biggest concern for me is it's another avenue. If you want to do something bad you may now try to exploit that vulnerability."
Garrett said the incident was likely a prank carried out by a disgruntled employee, as opposed to an act of terrorism.
"In my view the idea of putting sewing needles in half a dozen sandwiches is obviously not going to cause much other than an inconvenience to the passengers," Garrett said.
"So at the end of the day I'm not sure this will end up being terrorist driven. A prank or employee anger is probably I think a more likely scenario."
Garrett said the sandwiches were provided by airline catering company Gate Gourmet, and would have been in contact with a number of employees before they eventually made it onto the plane.
Until the food enters the airport, the catering company is entirely responsible for its security.
Apart from inspecting every sandwich or meal several times along the process, there's really no guaranteed way to prevent employee tampering, he said.
Garrett said there is a potential positive outcome, however. No one was seriously injured in the incident, which will likely lead to stricter security processes to prevent similar incidents in future.
Needles were found aboard two flights to Atlanta and one to Seattle. Two needles were also discovered in sandwiches aboard a Minneapolis-bound flight, one of which injured a passenger's mouth.
"I figured it might be a toothpick," passenger Jim Tonjes of Plymouth, Minnesota, told the Star Tribune newspaper.
"It looked like a sewing needle but without an eye. ... I was in shock," he explained. "I thought, 'Oh, my God.' It's the last thing you expect in a sandwich."
All of the flights originated in at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The sandwiches were all made in the Amsterdam kitchen of Gate Gourmet, an airline catering company that handles meals for more than 3 million flights annually.
In a statement issued Monday, the company said it had launched its own investigation of what it considers a "criminal act" and was "heightening our already stringent safety and security procedures, to prevent any recurrence."
In its own written statement issued Monday, the airline said it is also taking the matter "extremely" seriously and was working with Gate Gourmet to improve safety.