Thursday, January 07, 2010

Slovak Security Snafu Shocks World

After spending the Christmas holidays at home, Stefan Gonda arrived at the airport in Poprad in the central European state of Slovakia on Saturday to catch a flight back to Dublin where he's been working for the past four years. The 49-year-old checked his bags in and boarded the plane as he'd done numerous times in the past.  That, however, is where normal ends.  Slovak security had an idea, a bad idea.  They would load explosives into the bags of an unsuspecting traveler to test whether their explosive team dogs could sniff them out.  Unknown to him, Gonda would provide the baggage.  However, everything went terribly wrong, and the sleepy town of Poprad soon found itself at the center of world attention.

Ninety grams of RDX explosives are placed in one of Gonda's bags.  All his luggage, including, obviously, the explosives, goes through all of Poprad's airport controls, scanners, bomb-sniffing dogs, ecetera.  

Does an alarm go off?  No.

The luggage with the explosive is loaded on the Danube Wings plane and, as per schedule, takes off.  

Here, Slovak and Czech media say Slovak police did warn the pilot of the plane just before takeoff that he had explosives on board.

According to Czech and Slovak media reports, the pilot refuses to delay his departure, reasoning the explosive is harmless since there is no detonator.  

The Slovaks say they faxed Dublin's international airport to inform them of the explosive package aboard the flight.  

Somehow, the fax is not acted on.

Back in Slovakia, the airport security team engaged in the security snafu goes home and forgots to debrief those taking over.  

Sunday comes, and the incident seems forgotten.  

On Monday, Slovak security begins to stir and only on Tuesday, a full three days after the event, do they inform their Irish colleagues.  

The Slovaks plead with the Irish to cover up the incident as best they can and leave the unwitting Gonda alone.

Irish security does otherwise and launch a major security operation -- including closing off nearby streets -- to bag Gonda at his Dublin apartment that same day-- Tuesday.  

The explosives are found in one of his bags, and Irish police arrest Gonda.

Gonda is shortly released after it becomes clear he was the victim of a terribly botched Slovak security operation. 

Irish officials are outraged, demanding how Slovak security could have tried something so boneheaded.

The head of Slovak border and foreign police, Tibor Mako, offers his dismissal. 

Aviation experts are gobsmacked the Slovaks could have been so reckless.  

And what about Mr. Gonda?  According to Czech media reports, Gonda holds no grudge against Slovak security for plucking him out as their explosive-carrying guinea pig and has no plans to sue.  

For Slovakia its a big p.r. black eye and has hurt the country's image even more than the film Hostel.   

For many it will reaffirm the image of 'backwards' eastern Europe.

Way to go Slovakia.   

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