Teen's Trek to World Trade Center's Top Spurs Calls for More Security

Friday, 21 Mar 2014 01:45 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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An investigation into how a New Jersey teen was able to sneak to the top of the Freedom Tower has revealed a number of security failures that have some calling for a change in how the country's top terror target is guarded.

On Sunday, Justin Casquejo, 16, of Weehawken was arrested by New York City police after he broke into One World Trade Center undetected and spent nearly two hours roaming around and taking pictures, eventually making it up to the building's spire, the New York Post reported. He was charged with criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.

The stunt revealed a security lapse in a building that developer Donald Trump has called, "Terror Target No. 1 with a bull’s-eye around its neck."

In a commentary in Friday's Post, Steve Cuozzo called security efforts by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the building, "a joke."

He said that Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota's controversial comments comparing Port Authority police to "mall cops," might have been "an insult to the guys who break up food court Snapple fights," and called for the New York Police Department to have a greater hand in securing the World Trade Center.

"If the PA can’t build a fence without holes for a kid to crawl through, it must turn the job over to the NYPD for good," Cuozzo wrote.

Casquejo and his friends, a thrill-seeking group that calls itself "Team Destiny," made three trips to stake out the construction site, according to the Post. but the plan was for Casquejo to enter solo.

Casaquejo told the Post that he climbed through a 12-by-12 inch hole in fencing around Ground Zero near Church Street around 4 a.m. He convinced a union elevator operator to give him a lift up to the 88th floor, from where he then climbed stairs to the 104th floor, sneaking passed a sleeping security guard and onto the roof of America's tallest building.

Court documents reveal that Casquejo admitted he went to "the rooftop and climbed the ladder all the way to the antenna." He posted photos from the roof to his Twitter account, which has since been deactivated. It wasn't until a construction supervisor noticed the flash of Casquejo's cellphone camera that the police were called.

Since then, the Post has learned that the Freedom Tower is devoid of a single operational surveillance camera inside and cited a security source as saying the building's video system "won’t be operational until the building opens later this year."

When asked about the lack of working cameras, Port Authority spokesman Joe Pantangelo said, "The deployment of the hardware is confidential." He added that the "inattentive" guard has been fired.

Joseph Dunne, chief security officer for the Port Authority, said in a statement, "We take security and these type of infractions extremely seriously and will prosecute violators. We continue to reassess our security posture at the site and we are constantly working to make this site as secure as possible."

Roberto Speer, who lives next door to Casquejo's father, told The Jersey Journal that the teen should be lauded for exposing 1 World Trade Center for not being secure enough.

"It could have been a guy with a bomb," Speer said. "This kid should be commended. He proved to them that the system isn’t secure. He did it for free."

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