A French TV station, in what officials called an "absolutely stupid" test of security, delivered packages containing phony bombs to three airlines at John F. Kennedy International Airport Wednesday, and two station employees were arrested.
Only one of the packages with fake explosives hidden inside was noticed by workers at cargo acceptance counters. The discovery by Trans World Airlines personnel prompted a producer for the television station to reveal the hoax to authorities, who then notified the other two airlines.Both the producer, Bruce Frankel, 38, of Manhattan, and French correspondent Alain Chaillou, 44, were arrested by the FBI and charged with violating a federal statute that forbids making false bomb reports.
"I think it's a duty of a responsible journalist," Frankel said, as he and Chaillou were taken to the Metropolitan Correction Center for the night.
The two were to be arraigned Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on the charges, which carry penalties of up to five years in prison.
"It was not funny. Nobody at the Port Authority thinks its funny. I doubt if anyone with the Federal Aviation Administration thinks it's funny, or the people who were delayed," said Bill Cahill, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport.
"I think it was absolutely stupid on the part of this outfit," Cahill added.
The other packages were left at Pan Am and Air France cargo counters and had not been detected before the airlines were told of the hoax by police.
A Pan Am spokesman said its package was on its way to being X-rayed.
An Air France spokesman said the airline had not inspected the package because the agent knew the shipper and because only random packages are opened. Air France said as a result of the incident, "Now we open every single package that goes through the system."
The 6-by-8-inch brown boxes each contained a fake explosive device made with molding clay, an alarm clock and wires, Cahill said.