Computer monitor causes scare at Newark airport

December 20, 2010 3:18:42 PM PST
What turned out to be a computer monitor caused a security scare Monday morning at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Officials to shut down part of Terminal A for about two hours as a precaution during the investigation of the suspicious package.

The Transportation Security Administration detected the suspicious package at 6:17 a.m. during screening of checked baggage in Terminal A, which is home to American Airlines at the airport, TSA spokesman James Fotenos said.

"To ensure the safety of the traveling public, the nearby security checkpoint was temporarily closed," Fotenos said.

Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, said one security checkpoint in Terminal A was shut down, as was the ground floor area where the bag was being screened. The rest of the terminal operated normally, he said.

A police bomb squad cleared the monitor and normal operations resumed at 8:16 a.m.

Computer monitors normally emit small amounts of radiation and there was never any danger, FBI agent Bryan Travers said.

The monitor was being shipped to the same destination as its owner, who was already in flight.

It wasn't immediately known how many flights were delayed by the closure. Marsico said some flights may have been moved to different gates.

In another security scare, New York City police closed part of Fifth Avenue near the Metropolitan Museum safe while investigating a report of a suspicious vehicle.

A 911 caller reported the parked SUV at about 9:45 a.m. Monday.

The "all clear" was declared around noon.

Police said the SUV contained boxes of clothing.

The vehicle was legally parked at East 82nd Street near the corner of Fifth Avenue.

It is likely to be a very busy week or two for the NYPD bomb squad as vigilant New Yorkers report suspicious packages.

As in the case on Fifth Avenue, they will hopefully all be false alarms.

The jitteriness is a sign that around the holidays the thought of an attack lingers in the back of our minds.

"Huge crowds, concerts, theaters, it's somewhere on my mind yes," said one woman.

"I just try to follow instructions on train pay attention to packages left behind," a man said.

Wary that al-Qaeda may try another Christmas bombing, the FBI and Homeland Security have issued a joint warning to police nationwide. It states "We are concerted these terrorists may seek to exploit the likely significant psychological impact of an attack targeting mass gatherings in large metropolitan areas."

While there's been no specific threat, intelligence experts say the alert is wise.

"There is a sense this time of year that our enemy realizes they could make that much more impact if they were to attack," said Samuel Rascoff, a NYU Professor of Law.

And they've tried: Last Christmas a Nigerian man packed explosives in his underwear in an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane.

In December 2001, three days before Christmas, It was a shoe-bomb that Richard Reid try to ignite on-board an American Airlines flight.

And just weeks ago, a Portland man was caught in an FBI sting allegedly planning to set off a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Here in New York at its many world-famous attractions, security seems as visible as any other day which according to a former head of intelligence, analysis for the NYPD is a good thing since no one really knows when or where terrorist will attack.

"My hope and prayer is we won't have to think of next hit but we do. Al Qaeda in its core iteration is not going to be behind next attack. I put my money on Al Qaeda in Yemen, Arabia Peninsula as the group that's stepped up its posture against the U.S. and shows no sign of standing down," Rascoff said.