Nathaniel Heatwole Exposes Lax Airport Security
Homeland Security Arrests Him

Nathaniel Heatwole, 20, a student at Guilford College in North Carolina, has been arrested for carrying box cutters, bleach, matches and modeling clay onto domestic passenger airliners to expose security shortcomings. Instead, he should be given a medal.

Several Democrats, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Edward Markey, have said that he should perform community service if it is determined that Heatwole did not have criminal intent. Pelosi told reporters,"I'm not commending him. I'm just saying that he taught us a lesson."

Heatwole planted bags of banned items on Southwest aircraft and notified the Transportation Security Administration in an e-mail last month, providing his name and phone number and explaining what he had done - but the hidden items still went undiscovered for five weeks. One might understand why the TSA is embarassed about this, but does this sound like the behavior of a criminal?

"I can tell you he's a bright, sharp, accomplished young man," said Jack Hammett, president of the Potomac Valley Radio Club, which awarded him a $1,000 scholarship this summer.

The club's August newsletter describes Heatwole as a double major in physics and political science at Guilford College, a liberal arts school, founded by Quakers, with a history of civil disobedience dating to its resistance of Confederate conscription during the Civil War.

Heatwole won a dean's award last year for writing, and a $2,500 school scholarship this year for "outstanding character, intellect and scholarship."

Prosecutors aren't buying that Heatwole was performing a public service, mainly because as a result of his actions they've been publicly humiliated, had to search 7,000 commercial aircraft and have faced "questions about the adequacy of airport security two years after the Sept. 11 attacks."

Heatwole told the Greensboro News & Record, "I have a ton of stuff I'd like to say, but now is not the time. I have to work with the government before I work with the media."
"This young man blew a whistle so that tomorrow, no one can blow up an airplane in the United States," said Rep. Markey.

"He has pointed out a very serious security deficiency. He e-mailed the TSA and said he had put box cutters on planes. And for more than a month, they did not respond to that warning even though he left his phone number with them. So this is, without question, very troubling."

"The Bush administration can't, on the one hand, say that this young man committed a very serious crime and then at the same time say that they didn't respond to the e-mail at the Department of Homeland Security because it wasn't an imminent threat. They can't have it both ways. Either the young man did something that was very serious, or he didn't."

Markey also chastised the agency for cutting 6,000 baggage screeners and for continuing to support the loading of cargo aboard passenger planes without physical screening or inspection.

Markey said the agency has also failed to complete background checks on many of its own employees and has hired convicted criminals.

Read for yourself what the TSA had to say about this incident. It's almost laughable, if the stakes for this well-intentioned but naive college student weren't so high.

Heatwole faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.