Cold comfort

Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that there were more box cutters, the tools of the terrorists who perpetrated the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy, found aboard some airplanes. It was the second time in less than a month the weapons had gotten past airport security and been placed strategically aboard planes.

In the first case, Nathaniel Heatwole of Damascus, Md., was charged in federal court with taking a dangerous weapon aboard an aircraft. He said he did it as an act of civil disobedience to point out that our nation’s airline security issues had not been straightened out. He made this claim in an e-mail he sent to the Transportation Security Administration weeks before the incident. The e-mail also included such pertinent facts as when, where and on what planes the weapons could be found.

It is not hard to make the assumption that Heatwole inspired copycat crimes—and have no doubt, it is a serious crime to take box cutters aboard an airliner. This is why Heatwole, whose actions did indeed come under the definition of civil disobedience, will see his day in court. Every effort will be made to make an example of him because these days, in this country, the government wants to control the dialogue.

It truly seems that the lessons learned by the 9-11 attack have been forgotten by our government in the rush to punish someone, anyone. Our borders are as holey as sponges; good intelligence is still being ignored; the airline security still allows rank amateurs to sneak boxcutters—boxcutters and all they symbolize—onto commercial airliners.

Nathaniel Heatwole probably did inspire the person who put box cutters on the planes last week. There will likely be many more inspired to point out that the Emperor of Airline Insecurity is naked as a jaybird. It’s kind of sad, but if Heatwole weren’t prosecuted, anyone who attempts to bring a weapon onto an airplane will be able to make the “civil disobedience” claim. Some won’t have been as high-minded as the Guilford College student. It can only be hoped that Heatwole is given a medal to symbolize America’s debt to him as his sentence is read.

But that’ll probably be cold comfort in the federal penitentiary.