A federal agency said today it didn’t order police in North Carolina to seal a report about a teenager who died after stowing away in the wheel well of a jet flying from Charlotte to Boston.
The revelation appears to contradict what police said as they indicated they had completed a probe involving the death of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale. His body was found in a Boston suburb in November after it apparently fell from the plane.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe said earlier this month that he couldn’t release the report for security reasons.
But Jon Allen of the Transportation Security Administration said the agency only advised the city about information that could be sensitive to security.
He said the TSA received the report Wednesday and is giving it prompt attention.
“We’ll review the document and if there is sensitive security information (SSI) in it, that section will be redacted. If there is information that’s not (SSI) that information will be released,” he said.
Allen didn’t have a timeline when the report — or sections of the report — might be released. He also declined to discuss why there was apparent confusion over whether the report was sealed.
Monroe had presented a three-page summary of the investigation to the City Council Feb. 28. The Associated Press and other news organizations requested copies of the report but were told it was classified.
The police chief told The AP today that he thought the entire report was classified because of “sensitive security issues.” He said police worked closely with TSA and other agencies during the investigation and they all agreed the report contained classified information.
What Monroe said he didn’t know at the time that there was a “process” the report has to go through before it’s sealed. It has to be sent up to TSA, which reviews it and then decides which part of the report — if any — can be released to the public.
But Monroe said he was open about the information when he presented the summary to the City Council.
“We tried to let the public know generally what the investigation included and how we went about conducting the investigation,” he said.
Monroe said the extensive investigation had not been able to determine how Tisdale got to the airport or his motive for stowing away on the plane. But he added that they found problems areas, which included “fencing issues, electronic security issues and personnel issues.”
“We talked about them in general terms … without specifically designating those locations within the airport,” he said.
Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., has been pressuring for a national investigation of the security breach at Charlotte’s airport.
“I can’t speak to the communications between Charlotte and TSA,” Keating said today in a statement. “What I can say is that our only concern should be that the proper authorities obtain the full report so that necessary changes can be made to our airport security measures.”
The newly elected Keating investigated Tisdale’s death in Massachusetts as the Norfolk County district attorney.
Earlier, Keating told The AP that he wanted to read the full report but was informed it was classified. Instead, he received the police department’s three-page summary.
Keating said the summary provided clues to problems uncovered by Charlotte police. He also told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last month that the Tisdale case “raised enormous concerns about aviation safety.”
He was upset at the thought that if a teenager could board the plane unnoticed, so could a terrorist with a bomb.
The TSA also is investigating but is only looking at Charlotte.
Family and friends have been pushing police to find out why airport security didn’t stop Tisdale from sneaking aboard the plane.
Tisdale was a member of the Air Force ROTC program at North Mecklenburg High School near Charlotte. His father, Anthony, said the family had moved from Greensboro to Charlotte in the summer so the teen could join that program. Anthony Tisdale said his son was happy in Charlotte and stayed out of trouble.
But other family members said the teen was unhappy in North Carolina and had never wanted to leave Baltimore, where he had lived earlier.
Tisdale’s badly damaged body was found in Milton, Mass. Investigators said he fell out when the plane lowered its landing gear on its approach to Boston.
Experts say he was probably dead before the plane prepared to land.