A TV crew tries to sneak a fake bomb through US airport security - it didn't work

A TSA security agent checking a passenger's luggage in New York in a file photo.
A TSA security agent checking a passenger's luggage in New York in a file photo.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - A film crew tried to pass a phony explosive device through a security checkpoint on Thursday at Newark Liberty International Airport - and capture the moment on camera, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in a statement on Friday (Jan 19) that nine people had been arrested after some of them tried to sneak "an item in a carry-on bag that had all of the makings of an improvised explosive device".

Others in the group "covertly" filmed it, she said.

"The group did not make it past the checkpoint because TSA officers detected the item, which was concealed in a roller bag," Farbstein said in the statement.

"The preliminary investigation has determined that the group wanted to ascertain if they could get the item through the security checkpoint while filming themselves doing so," she added.

"They failed" and were arrested on numerous charges.

The Port Authority could not immediately be reached for comment on the incident.

Farbstein, with TSA, posted a photo of the device on Friday on Twitter, showing what appeared to be a motor connected to a hose surrounded by tubing.

She said it "had all of the makings of an IED."

She told The Washington Post it was composed of "electronics, wires and PVC pipes."

TSA said the film crew members, who were not publicly identified, claimed to work for a TV network.

It is not known which TV network the group may work for or which TV show they may have been filming the encounter for. An unnamed person told NJ.com that the crew members were from a Dutch production company called Endemol Shine Group, which is responsible for The Biggest Loser, Deal Or No Deal, Fear Factor and MasterChef.

A spokesman for Endemol Shine North America could not immediately be reached for comment but said in a statement to NJ.com: "We are looking into the details of what happened as a matter of priority and are in contact with relevant authorities on the ground. While this process is ongoing we are unable to comment further but in the meantime, we sincerely apologise for any disruption caused."

An unnamed law enforcement official told NJ.com that the group will likely be charged by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. The prosecutor's office did not immediately comment on possible criminal charges.

TSA said they could also face civil penalties of more than US$13,000 (S$17,000) for each security violation.

"This type of stunt is reckless, dangerous, uninformed and totally insensitive to the reality of the terror threat we face. It is the equivalent to yelling 'Fire!' in a crowded theater or using a toy gun to rob a bank and then claiming that it was just a toy, just to see what happens," Tom Carter, TSA's federal security director for New Jersey, said on Friday in a statement.

"There is simply no excuse for trying to do something like this knowing it had the great potential to cause panic with the intention of turning that panic into a reality show. The reality is that all of these individuals were arrested and face heavy civil penalties as well."