Undercover journalist exposes security failures at Tel Aviv airport

David Suleiman gets job at Ben Gurion Airport under a different ID, plants fake bombs on planes; IAA files complaint against him

Observation tower at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Observation tower at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

An undercover journalist posing as a man looking for employment at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport managed to snag a position with a contractor — using someone else’s identity card — and put the airport’s much vaunted security credentials to the test.

In a Channel 2 TV report Sunday, David Suleiman, an investigative reporter, said he arrived at an interview with the airport’s sanitation contractor and presented the photo ID of another man, Yaniv Tamir, claiming it was his own. Tamir, who is a friend of Suleiman’s and who gave him his ID card to use, has a full head of hair, dark features and eyeglasses. Suleiman is bald and has light eyes. Nonetheless, when Suleiman presented Tamir’s ID card as his own he was not challenged.

Suleiman said he was asked to fill in some forms for a security check, which he passed that same day, with his false ID.

Hired immediately as a sanitation worker, Suleiman said he had access to sensitive parts of the airport’s operations, including aircraft, and was astounded not to be discovered.

Airplanes seen at the Ben Gurion International Airport, August 14, 2012 (photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Airplanes seen at Ben Gurion International Airport (photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Aboard the aircraft, he was shown filming himself unsupervised accessing the pilot’s cabin, tampering with the door, and generally trying to arouse suspicion.

David Suleiman. (Screenshot/Channel 2)
David Suleiman. (Screenshot/Channel 2)

Arousing none, Suleiman said he “had an idea to see if I could enter the plane and place ‘bombs’ inside cans [of soft drinks]” to emulate a bombing claimed by the Islamic State of a Russian airliner last October which killed 224 people.

The terror group said it brought down the plane using a can of Schweppes Gold soft drink as an improvised explosive device with a detonator, and with the help of airport staff.

Suleiman brought innocent cans of soft drinks and cigarettes into the airport’s supposedly sterile areas without undergoing a security check. He filmed himself placing the cans aboard airplanes while he was working, without anyone noticing.

“Over two days, I worked on 12 airplanes and I could have done whatever I wanted in all 12 of them,” he told Channel 2.

David Suleiman used someone else's ID to get a job at the airport. Screenshot/Channel 2)
David Suleiman used someone else’s ID to get a job at the airport. Screenshot/Channel 2)

Emboldened by the can operation, Suleiman said he decided to wander around outside the planes, in areas he should not have had access to even as a staffer, to see what would happen.

He wandered to an area where suitcases were being loaded onto an aircraft before passenger boarding and was asked for some help with the bags.

In response, the CEO of the Israel Security Association and the former security chief at the airport, Pini Shiff, said the issue of Suleiman’s real identification “should have been discovered immediately,” and accused the contractor company of negligence during the recruitment process. He said the flaws Suleiman exposed were “very grave.”

Shiff added that security procedures at the airport were immediately changed in the wake of the breaches exposed by Suleiman.

The Israel Airports Authority filed a police complaint against Suleiman for impersonating a public employee.

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