Gov. Dannel P. Malloy bypassed a federal security checkpoint at Bradley International Airport last Nov. 27 while carrying a backpack belonging to his son, Samuel Malloy, through a private corridor to the departure gate area as he and first lady Cathy Malloy saw their son off for a flight, a Courant investigation of the episode has found. Security camera footage shows Malloy carrying the red backpack on his shoulder through a side door within the Bradley terminal to which airport security personnel admitted him. Then he was ushered by state police with his wife through a secure, non-public interior corridor and ended up at the airport’s departure gates, the video shows.
The corridor bypassed one of the now-familiar security checkpoints where U.S.Transportation Security Administration agents electronically screen travelers’ bodies and baggage with X-ray devices 2 million times a day, the investigation found.
Malloy, in an interview, confirmed the bag was not screened.
Malloy’s 23-year-old son went, separately from his parents, through the regular public security checkpoint while carrying no baggage, then caught up to them at the departure gate area. The videos do not show Malloy turning the backpack over to his son – but Malloy said it was at the gate area where his son took the pack from him, and then boarded the plane headed toward his home in Los Angeles after a Thanksgiving visit.
The episode was flagged by airport personnel, who objected to the Malloys getting special VIP treatment that enabled them to get the son’s backpack around the public security checkpoint, and into the gate area where no member of the public can go without a boarding pass. At least one expressed alarm at a backpack getting onto a commercial jet without undergoing normal scrutiny.
Internal emails written by one or more individuals who work at the airport said it was “a violation” of security rules and that “this Governor is not above any law.”
Asked about the bag and security, Malloy apologized and said he’d been in a hurry to get his son on the flight because “we were running a little behind.”
“It was kind of an absent-minded mistake,” Malloy said in an interview on Wednesday. “And I am sorry. You know, to cause anybody consternation is not what I was trying to do. I was just trying to see my son off with his mother.”
“It would have been very easy…to have had him take his own bag” through the security checkpoint, he said.
Malloy said his state police security detail made all arrangements for his family’s movements at the airport – including going through the secure corridor to the gate area, rather than saying goodbye before the security checkpoint as the general public must.
“The reality is, I’m kind of led around a little bit” by the state police security detail assigned to protect him, Malloy said. “I haven’t been outside of my house without somebody standing beside me in many years. And so my security knows what the mission is, and I basically follow them.”
TSA higher-ups later reviewed the incident, examining the videos, and found no violation, saying the backpack wasn’t a threat. TSA officials declined to release a copy of their investigation.
Freedom of Information Act requests by The Courant for security footage and other information relating to the incident – which happened during a 20-minute period between 11 a.m. and noon on the day after Thanksgiving – were denied in recent months by the TSA, the Connecticut Airport Authority, and the Connecticut state police.
However, the video footage and several emails were obtained by The Courant.
Malloy has been vocal in urging vigilance for against terrorism – saying “if you see something, say something.” Asked Wednesday if he thought airport personnel were right to “say something” about the incident involving him and his son’s backpack, he said “absolutely.”
He said if he had it to do over, “I would have thought about it and it wouldn’t happen. There’s no reason for it to happen except that we were trying to get my son on a plane to say goodbye and we were running a little late.”
The governor said as far as he knows, the backpack went onto the jet with its contents unexamined.
Asked if it was inspected at Bradley, he said, “No, it was not.” Had his security detail examined the contents earlier? “I wouldn’t think so,” he said.
But he also said he didn’t think anything in it would have been a problem at the checkpoint. “No,” he said, “Not that I know of.”
The episode began around 11:10 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. Videos show the Malloy party had contact with two troopers from the governor’s security detail and two state police officers stationed at the airport. The TSA’s subsequent review of the incident “concluded that the screening of the Governor and his family adhered to standard operating procedures,” TSA spokesman Michael McCarthy said in an email last week.
Asked what standard procedures allow a government official’s son to get on a flight with a backpack that didn’t go through the normal security check, McCarthy said the TSA’s security rules are confidential and he could not explain.
“I’m not having any luck releasing our screening procedure — it’s all SSI (sensitive security information),” McCarthy said in an email last Friday after days of checking on what information he could disclose.
Malloy said that when he’s traveled as governor, he always has been accompanied by state police officers on his taxpayer-funded security detail, which allows him at all airports to bypass the regular security checkpoint. It’s worked out between his security and the TSA, he said.
“At every airport I travel, we bypass [the public security checkpoint],” Malloy said, adding that he can do that because “I am with security” – his state police detail.
He recalled one exception to bypassing the checkpoint was in Canada, where the TSA wasn’t in charge.
The TSA stated several years ago that at the federal level, only congressional leaders traveling with a security detail can bypass security checkpoints when flying on commercial jets. Regular members of Congress need to stand in line with everybody else, the TSA said, as reported in the national media at the time.
But Malloy said he leaves those questions up to his security detail and the TSA.
“Listen, I do what the TSA and security [detail members] work out,” he said. “That’s the name of the game. Believe it or not, when my security says jump, I jump. When you are in my kind of position, that’s what you do. Either you embrace it or you don’t – and to not drive myself crazy I embrace it. I do what I’m told to do.”
Malloy said as he recalled it, when they pulled up to the airport on Nov. 27, “I grabbed the backpack, Sam grabbed something else and he had to go through the security line. Didn’t see him after that until he joined us by the gate, which was already loading.”