Boxcutter-Smugglin' Kid--Hero or Goat?

Just saw an NBC story on that college student who admitted to smuggling boxcutters and modeling clay aboard airplanes, which went undiscovered for months. “It was a major crime and very, very dangerous,” said an official.

Sounds to me like they’re just pissed-off because he showed up airline security as the total joke we all suspected it was. Frankly, I think he should be considered a whistle-blower.

Why didnt the kid report that he managed to do so ? Months later isn’t much help is it… :slight_smile:

I would never get even close to considering it a crime... let alone a serious "major crime".

He did report it . . . He sent the airline a series of e-mails, and left notes with the smuggled material–which, of course, went completely unfound for months.

“Thou shalt not put the Lord thy Ashcroft to the test.”


According to an FBI affidavit, Heatwole’s signed e-mail “stated that he was aware his actions were against the law and that he was aware of the potential consequences for his actions, and that his actions were an `act of civil disobedience with the aim of improving public safety for the air-traveling public.’”

However, U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio said Heatwole’s conduct “was not a prank. This was not poor judgment. … It was not a test. It was not a civil action. It was a very serious and foolish action.”

Is it about the boy or the airline security he is talking about ? :slight_smile:

[The Cheat’s flash cartoons]

Here, The College Kid, have a trophy!


Seriously, this is yet another example of the fumbling clumsiness of the airline security measures. U.S. Attorney DiBaigio should be shaking this kid’s hand for showing them where they could tighten things up, not putting him on trial by media.

I’d chalk the kid up as a renegade folk hero, myself.

The dirty secret the TSA isn’t willing to face is that no amount of making us take our shoes off in airports is going to prevent another 9/11 style attack if the hijackers are smart and determined.

This kid just said ‘The Emperor has no clothes’ in such a way as to embarass the administration. For that he’ll get slapped a bit.

Linkety link.

There are a bunch of issues involved (aren’t there always?) While it did make a good, albeit scary, point about the continuing laxity in security, the official counterargument could be that it diverts important resources away from watching out for real terrorism. Granted, there don’t seem to be any resources diverted at all in this case, and there are obviously resulting benefits as well. But the other reason for arresting him is the need to make an example of him. If he does it, what’s there to stop everyone from doing it and potentially putting a halt to airline transportation?

So I can understand the reasons it’s illegal. That said, was it immoral? I don’t think so, since the benefits seem to be outweighing the risks.

But modeling clay? Are you really not allowed to bring that on a plane? I could see how it could look like plastique or something, but I just never thought about it before.

More Hero than Goat. Frankly, I don’t think he’s much of either – the real star of this debacle isn’t the student, but the irrational response of the Powers that Be.

Watch them WORK, boyee!


It bears repeating: The TSA did not send the e-mail to the FBI until last Friday.

We’ve had the largest reorganization of the federal government (since the FDR era) to eliminate inter-agency screwups.

Also, MSNBC News reported today (Of course, no cite. They seldom cite their stories.) that the test for TSA employees is so poorly written it’s should be no surprise TSA staff are not finding things.
It’s not working.

I understand why the kid did this. At the same time, that’s like six different kinds of stupid of him. He apparently realized he would be caught. What in the current Administration’s actions or attitudes made him think they had a sense of humor? Or does he really think it’s going to be worth his spending his early adulthood in a prison in order to make his particular point in this particular fashion?


Airlines should give that kid a job.

Apparently he does realize how serious it was, and it’ll be worth him spending time in prison. If he DOES spend time in prison. This shit might get so much hype that he might get off very light. Seriously, it made the airline securities look like total inept fools. Don’t you think it’ll make them look even tons more foolish to prosecute this kid to the full extent?

Let’s see if the Bush administration continues to boast about how much safer we are, due to the changes in security it has implemented.

A 20 year old kid is able to bring weapons on board an aircraft numerous times, sends the FBI an email telling them, and it takes them 4 months to figure it out.

Yeah, I feel a hell of a lot safer.

Hero or goat? Why not both?

The thing about civil disobedience is, you know you’re breaking the law and you know you’ll get charged and tried and probably sentenced, but you do it anyway in order to prove a point. Saying an act was civil disobedience is not a get-out-of-jail card. Otherwise I’d go parade my bong in front of city hall, squealing, “Civil disobedience! Civil disobedience! Wanna toke?”

Of course, I haven’t seen any indication that the kid is trying to get out of anything or dodge the consequences. He may be surprised that the government is coming down on him so hard, but from everything I’ve seen he’s just clenching his jaw and sucking it up. If that’s an accurate perception, it suggests the kid’s got some guts.

The most priceless quote, in my opinion, is this one, from Steve McHale, who goes by the title of Transport Security Administration Deputy Administrator. Ahem:

“Amateur testing of the system like this does not in any way assist us or show us where there are flaws.”

Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyeah. Not a flaw. Nope. Nothing to see. Move along. These are not the box cutters you’re looking for. You can go about your business.

In a perfect world, the kid is charged and found (or pleads) guilty. The Bush Administration, recognizing the potentially negative fallout on the PR front, gives him a minimum sentence, thereby sending the message that they don’t want to be buried by this kind of nonsense, and the kid has to pay for his obviously illegal actions, but that it nonetheless served a useful purpose. But being as politically tone-deaf as they have obviously proved themselves to be, they’re going to react with spite and humiliation and seek every possible charge against the kid they can justify.

How the kid reacts to this ridiculous bit of political overkill will determine, in my mind, where on the hero <——> goat continuum he lands. If he shakes his head and quietly takes it, he’s a hero, and indeed a martyr. If he bitches and moans and indicates he doesn’t think he deserves a nanosecond of jail time, he’s a goat. Adjustments should be made therefrom.

Hackers and virus-spreaders believe they’re performing a public service by illuminating security holes. I say they owe me the money I’ve spent getting my computers repaired over the years. This kid is just one more of the same. I don’t value his contribution in the least.

Why else would the kid be made to look like a criminal? :wink:

Just out of curiosity, do you fly much? Because I think a lot of people thought they were safer than they actually were.

The publicity that this is generating is causing a closer look into security measures that are not apparently working too well. How is that not a good thing?

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!”

Or even

“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.