Jewish World Review Oct.23, 2003 / 27 Tishrei 5764
Box Cutter Kid did us a favor
At first, I thought the college kid who sneaked box cutters on airlines "to test the security" would be spending the rest of his college years in the slammer.
But, judging by the way a lot of people are reacting to him, I would not be surprised to see the young man receive a medal, even if he has to receive it behind bars.
The heavy hand of the Bush administration's Homeland Security forces and Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's beloved USA Patriot Act may yet clamp down upon the shoulders of Nathaniel Heatwole, 20, and throw him straightaway into the hoosegow.
After all, it's not nice to fool government officials, especially the type who carry guns and take pride in their ability to work long hours without smiling.
But a lot of people I have heard call in to radio and TV talk shows view young Heatwole as some sort of gonzo hero.
The Box Cutter Kid, they say, is a freelance gadfly who conducted the sort of investigative experiment on his own that reporters used to do more routinely, back in the days before editors grew squeamish about reporters misrepresenting themselves.
I suspect this sentiment is widespread.
The American public has been very patient with the government's new security measures since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
But the government betrays our patience whenever it demands great sacrifice from us, the law abiding, while leaving gaping holes big enough for a brazen college student to slip through.
Why, we wonder, was young Heatwole able to slip bags containing box cutters and other banned items through airport security and hide them on Southwest Airlines planes on Sept. 12 and Sept. 14, according to an affidavit accompanying the criminal charge against him, despite the billions of dollars that the feds have spent on beefed-up airport security?
Why, we wonder, was young Nathaniel still walking around free for a month, even after sending a helpful e-mail to the federal Transportation Security Administration on Sept. 15 that described what he had done?
Heatwole, a junior at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., was easy to track down at his Damascus, Md., home because his e-mail to TSA included his name, e-mail address and telephone number, according to court documents. One presumes that our federal agents know how to dial a telephone.
Yet, it was not until Oct. 16 that airline workers conducting routine maintenance stumbled onto plastic bags Heatwole hid that contained the blades, some bleach, clay shaped like an explosive and matches.
Only then did TSA track down Heatwole's e-mail and turn it over to the FBI, officials said.
Why, we wonder, was this happening while the rest of us in the air traveling public have been marching ourselves to the airport two hours early, standing in slow-moving lines, emptying our pockets of metal, removing our watches and jewelry, putting our laptops into the tray on the conveyor, taking off our shoes, removing our belt buckles, losing our little-bitty pen knives and fingernail scissors and, in some astonishing cases, mother's milk and asthma inhalers only to set off the metal detector and receive a full-body pat-down anyway?
Heatwole, in his daring and reckless way, has done what many of his fellow citizens would like to do, were we not hampered by better judgment.
He has raised the nagging questions that many of us have about how safe Washington is really making us and the answers are not comforting.
"This is a bad experience," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who oversees TSA. "But we may learn something about it that we can apply across the country."
Let's hope so. Heatwole reportedly said he staged his "act of civil disobedience" to bring attention to gaps in airline security.
He's hardly the only person who has complained, but his bold and audacious act instantly has grabbed more attention than all of the other critics combined.
It should not have come to this, but fortunately it also is not too late to beef up security, not only at our airports but at our still largely unguarded seaports, among other weak spots.
In the meantime, young Heatwole faces one federal felony count of carrying a concealed dangerous weapon onto an aircraft, which carries a possible penalty of up to $250,000 and 10 years in prison. I will not try to guess what the court is going to do with him, but I find it somewhat spiteful that he has been ordered in the meantime to stay away from airports.
Too bad. The court could be wasting a valuable resource. That Box Cutter Kid might know more about airline security than a lot of the professionals do.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington
and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment on Clarence Page's column by clicking here.
10/17/03: So long to a misguided gag rule on the medicinal use of marijuana
10/14/03: Does the election of Ah-nuld mean anything more than the obvious?
10/02/03: The wages of luck in a 'jobless recovery'
09/30/03: Looks like Clark should go back to basic training
09/18/03: The amazing clout of lobbyists swarming around Capitol Hill
09/16/03: Hearing hip-hop's pathetic message
09/12/03: What teenagers really want
09/09/03: Lessons from an anthropologist
09/02/03: Put term limits on airport security rules
08/14/03: Schoolchildren of all races at risk without parental guidance
08/08/03: Colin Powell is the 'odd man out' again
08/05/03: Black parents must teach their kids to succeed
07/22/03: Presidential politics: A time to pander, a time to push away
07/15/03: Deeper realities of Baker's dust-up
07/10/03: Formerly aloof, Bush now embraces Africa
07/08/03: Wrestling with the Q-word in Iraq
07/01/03: If you are reading this column, you aren't being filtered!
06/10/03: The 'Industry of Hillary' raises bucks for both sides
05/30/03: Dems grope for glimmer of hope
05/28/03: Reefer sanity vs. puritans in the White House
05/22/03: Turns out race was a factor in the NYTimes scandal a very big one
05/06/03: Closing the college graduation disparity
04/22/03: Fighting for privacy in an era of terror
04/22/03: Don't mis-underestimate the prez: Give him the 'props' he deserves
04/21/03: Sitting on scoops at CNN
04/15/03: After Saddam? Watch out, Syria
04/11/03: 'Hammer time' for Castro
04/08/03: Post-Hussein: Winning the true peace
04/03/03: Right story, wrong TV station
04/01/03: Remembering Moynihan's mind
03/27/03: A fog of war words: Shocking and awesome
03/21/03: A Moranic moment bites peace movement
03/18/03: Viewers beware when tv networks don't care
03/14/03: Powell's battle for Bush's ear
03/10/03: 'Embedded,' but not 'in bed with'
02/28/03: Bridging the black gender gap
02/19/03 Braun vs. Sharpton: A Dem dilemma
02/14/03: Bush's clean-up man
02/11/03: How feds fooled marijuana trial jurors
02/06/03: Time to re-think space shuttle's value
01/31/03: Why corporations like diversity, too
01/28/03: Shaq vs. Yao, a new world diss-order
01/23/03: Affirmative action will be remarketed under new name
01/13/03: Bond movie offers clues to Korea crisis
01/07/03: Dr. Frist to the rescue … of his party
01/02/03: Feeling a 'draft,' but not much
12/17/02: To rob a burning cross of its power
12/03/02: Closing black-white test-score gaps
11/19/02: Uncle Same wants your data
11/15/02: Marriage vs. 'player' impulse
11/11/02: How Oz can help the Dems
11/05/02: We reserve right to be complicated
10/22/02: What the pro-gun lobby and anti-gun lobby have in common
10/18/02: Take Sharpton seriously? For Prez??
10/15/02: A beauty and the bullies
10/08/02: Time to start 'fingerprinting' bullets
10/08/02: Poet laureate hater fell for Internet hoax
10/04/02: Keeping it real, despite howls from black 'leaders'
10/01/02: Revisiting the 'Jogger' horror
09/27/02: Sometimes freedom is a necessary nuisance
09/13/02: Foil Fidel with free trade
09/10/02: Measuring the myth of 'super weed'
09/06/02: A year later: A reality-check
09/03/02: Make better choices before some jury somewhere does
08/20/02: Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century
08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
06/18/02: Reporting still risky for Haiti's press
06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks
© 2001 TMS