Box cutters and other banned items found concealed in two Southwest Airlines jets last week were smuggled on board more than a month earlier by a young Maryland man as part of what he called an “act of civil disobedience” intended to highlight flaws in airport security, reports the Baltimore Sun.
Nathaniel T. Heatwole, 20, was charged in Baltimore yesterday with carrying a concealed dangerous weapon aboard an airliner. Heatwole was released without bail and allowed to return to his college classes in North Carolina, although he was prohibited from traveling by plane.
The case touched off alarms in part because Heatwole had sent the Transportation Security Administration an e-mail last month identifying himself by name and phone number and explaining in detail what he had done – but the hidden items still went undiscovered for about five weeks.
TSA officials and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who oversees the agency, pledged yesterday to improve the system for screening and investigating potential threats and tips from the public, the Sun says.