Damascus man charged for airport security breach


Oct. 21, 2003, midnight | By Shewit Woldu | 18 years, 7 months ago

Student admits that he carried illicit items onto airplane to test security


The U.S. government charged a Damascus High School graduate on October 20 for carrying box cutters and other items onto an airplane after he admitted to bringing the prohibited items onto six flights so that he could prove that the nation's air security system was unsafe.

According to an FBI affidavit, Nathaniel Travis Heatwole, a 20-year old Guilford College student, reported to investigators that he was able to pass through security checkpoints with the items in his carry-on bag on six different occasions at Baltimore-Washington International and Raleigh-Durham International airports.

The affidavit filed in court yesterday also stated that Heatwole told investigators he hid the objects aboard four planes and left the items along with notes attached. In an e-mail, which eventually led to his arrest, he wrote that he thought his actions were "an act of civil disobedience with the aim of improving public safety for the air-traveling public."

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created in response of the September 11 attacks, and has confiscated 8 million perilous items since, but Heatwole's action shows that the nation's air security system is not perfect.

TSA Deputy Administrator Steven McHale realizes the problems in the nation's air security system, but McHale feels that Heatwole's actions did not help elucidate nor help the problem. "We do not expect ever to have 100 percent screening at the checkpoints. Amateur testing like this does not in any way assist us or show us where we have flaws in our system."

Information compiled from the Washington Post



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