It’s a hard decision. One one hand, you have to feel that his pointing out of the security holes is a Good Thing and that it will improve security processes in the future.
On the other hand, the kid really just pointed out that air travelers can’t have it both ways. We want to get on our plane with a minimum of groping, leering, breaking of valuables, and abuse by security - yet at the same time we want every single possible weapon and terrorist to be barred from entry.
You really don’t want to fly in a system where every single weapon and terrorist is banned from flying. Can you imagine the level of inspection, harassment, profiling, recordkeeping, intimidation, and fear that a traveler would have to go through every time? They would have to search every single item you carry in detail, laptops and ALL electronics likely would be banned, diabetics could no longer fly with syringes, asthmatics could not fly with inhalers. No liquids or food of any kind would be allowed. No roller bags (you can hide weapons inside or make them out of the metal parts) would be allowed. No baby equipment. Effectively, you would need to have an MRI to make sure you didn’t have a (sheathed) ceramic knife in your vagina, or else have deep, deep, DEEP cavity searches each and every time you board a plane.
What this kid did was smuggle items that really cannot effectively be stopped from entry without a herculean effort, and thus I seriously doubt that his efforts will result in any real improvement in security, because there’s just so much you can do.
So my judgment is - his effort was essentially pointless.
Now, what about his lawbreaking? I feel about him the same way that I do about journalists who ply a 15-year old with a fake ID and money to buy alcohol so they can film it. Or who buy illegal guns so they can show how easy it is.
I hate to burst the self-righteous bubble that some journalists seem to have, but Society did not appoint them with powers to violate the law as they see fit to offer “assistance” to the police without the express consent of said police. And I sincerely wish that every “crusading journalist” who violates the law without the consent and cooperation of the police gets the appropriate penalty of law based on the circumstances.
Can you imagine this being used as a defense?
“I’m not a terrorist, officer. See, my brother and I are journalists for the Straight Dope, and we’re answering a question that a reader sent in, which was ‘Can you really smuggle guns onto a plane?’ So you can’t arrest us, we’re heros!”
“Honest officer, the reason I didn’t renew my drivers license was to expose the injustice and tyrany in the MVD. In fact, by arresting me for driving without a license, you are perpetuating the injustice and committing a hate crime! HATE CRIME!”
“Dude - OK. Dude - I was buying the crack to see how easy it was to get, and I’m writing it in school paper. You can’t arrest me! My buddy Brandon is over there filming it even, so I got proof I’m a ‘journalist’. Now get the fuck out of my way, pig!”
In short, I feel this kid should get no special treatment, harsher or milder, than anyone else committing the same crime.