By the time NBC Bay Area broke the story on Tuesday of 62-year old stowaway Marilyn Hartman, Transportation Security officials had known about the security breach for 15 hours, but neither the airport nor the TSA planned to disclose this information to the public.
Hartman's odyssey started around 9 p.m. Monday night at San Jose International Airport. After a few failed attempts to bypass gate security, she bypassed a document checker and successfully boarded Southwest Airlines Flight 375 to Los Angeles.
The incident follows two other successful security breaches earlier this year at San Francisco International Airport. The San Francisco resident has attempted to board airplanes to Hawaii without a ticket at least six other times.
SJC Acting Assistant Director of Aviation John Aitken defended the decision not to inform the public as soon as they discovered Hartman: "There are a lot of incidents that happen at the airport that are never intended to become public," said Aitken. "We investigate them, we work through them, but there are a lot of things that are dealt with internally and this was one of them."
Aitken confirmed that if NBC Bay Area had not reported the incident on Tuesday, it would not have been disclosed. "We would not have communicated it to the general public," he said.
A TSA spokesperson confirmed with The Investigative Unit that the agency did not plan to disclose the security breach, but had a statement prepared in case a news agency discovered Hartman's arrest.
Marilyn Hartman pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge Wednesday and was sentenced to three days in jail with 24 days probation.
Aitken confirmed with The Investigative Unit that despite Hartman's many well-known attempts to stow away at SFO, SJC was not alerted that she might make an attempt in San Jose. Security personnel did not have photos of Hartman to prepare.
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"In our opinion," said Aitken, "after our investigation it did not fail to the point that there was a security threat...she was screened like every other passenger here."
Hartman did indeed pass through TSA security gates where her identity and belongings were inspected like any other passenger. Unlike other passengers, she never bought a ticket.