Airport Security Not So Secure?

PHOTO Recent security breaches at airports across the country have law enforcement and security officials concerned.ABC News
Recent security breaches at airports across the country have law enforcement and security officials concerned.

A recent spate of airport security breaches, with airline or airport employees allegedly involved in smuggling drugs or illegal immigrants, have federal officials concerned.

Just last week at Miami International Airport, eight cargo workers were charged with being part of a conspiracy that smuggled a half ton of cocaine and heroin from Central and South America to U.S. streets on scores of flights.

"They knew how to exploit that system because they worked there," said Anthony Mangione, Special Agent in Charge of the Homeland Security Investigations office in Miami. "The person within the system knows the strengths of it and knows the weaknesses and like anything else, will target those weaknesses."

If you thought nine years after 9/11 that corruption at the nation's airports would have been rooted out or dramatically reduced, think again.

In another breach in 2008, airport authorities and federal officials got a tip that drugs were being smuggled out of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, leading to the arrest of two American Airline employees.

In exclusive surveillance video obtained by ABC News of the drug bust, we see how airline employees can circumvent the system and elude security checks.

In the video, one of the suspects pulls up on the tarmac at JFK airport in a baggage car. Seconds later, in a perfectly synchronized act, another airport employee arrives in another truck and retrieves a package full of several thousand dollars worth of heroin.

The two employees involved have since been convicted.

Corruption at the airports is not just confined to narcotics smuggling. In addition to reports of several airports employing illegal immigrants, airport employees have been accused of smuggling illegal immigrants into the United States.

An elevator mechanic at Los Angeles International Airport was arrested and charged for smuggling at least 15 illegal immigrants into the country from Mexico.

Two of the immigrants had criminal records. All went through a terminal exit to hail a taxi outside without going through customs.

Federal customs officials say they fear the corruption of airports might one day be exploited by terrorists to sneak operatives and bombs into the country.

"Identifying this vulnerability, where you have workers with these access badges, is one of the things that they [terrorists] would target," Mangione said. "Just because they were smuggling drugs, doesn't mean they weren't willing to smuggle something else."

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that vetting the thousands of workers at international airports remains a huge challenge, and one with enormous implications.