Guns of Israel PM’s guards missing in US, security clueless

Thursday, July 8, 2010

WASHINGTON - Four guns belonging to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bodyguards have gone missing from New York airport, leaving red-faced US security officials struggling to find clues even four days later.

The search for the four 9 mm semi-automatic Glock 17 pistols now “is priority No. 1 in American law-enforcement”, a Port Authority police official told The New York Post Thursday.

“They (the Port Authority) have opened up the check books on this one,” said the official adding that the FBI and Secret Service have also joined the probe.

American Airlines — whose corporate-affiliated plane was supposed to be carrying the missing guns on a flight to Washington Sunday — has authorised a search of workers’ lockers at New York’s JFK Airport because of the possibility that the guns were stolen at the airport and then stashed in one of those lockers.

Police are also interviewing American Airlines workers, the paper said.

The guns have been missing since Sunday, when the prime minister’s security team landed at JFK airport on an El Al flight from Israel.

Among the team’s luggage was seven guns — three in a so-called Pelican carrying case, and the four 9 mm semi-automatic Glock 17 pistols in another Pelican case, a source said.

The weapons then were transported from the El Al plane, and were supposed to be placed in the American Eagle plane that was to carry the agents same day to Washington DC — where Netanyahu was scheduled to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.

A video footage taken by the Transportation Safety Administration shows both cases and the guns being examined by airport personnel and then re-sealed after being removed from the El Al plane, according to law-enforcement sources.

“That is the best evidence we have that the guns were actually here,” said a source.

After that, “an incredible comedy of errors occurs, with everyone who touches the case (containing the four Glocks) screwing up”, a source said.

When the Israeli security team arrived in Washington, they discovered that only the case containing the three guns had been shipped with them on the flight and the Pelican case was missing.

The team immediately reported the missing case to a detective at the Washington airport, who in turn alerted other authorities to begin searching for the guns.

The case eventually was found in a Los Angeles airport only Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But instead of being opened there to check to see if the guns were inside, it was put on another plane for shipment to Washington via Chicago. The case was not opened in Chicago after it landed there, and it continued on to Washington.

Authorities suspect the pistols were stolen at JFK, and that the culprits put the luggage on an LA-bound flight, giving them a lenghty head-start before the crime would come to light and be investigated.

The incident has left American officials red-faced — and scrambling to find out who was responsible for the lapse and where the Israeli bodyguard’s pistols are.

“These are Netanyahu’s personal protectors — they are like Secret Service agents on the Presidential detail,” one law-enforcement source said.

Netanyahu is in New York Thursday to meet United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. He would also address the ‘conference of presidents’ of major American Jewish organisations later in the day.

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