More Box Cutters!


November 10, 2003


by Gary Aldrich, Patrick Henry Center

All those folks who sent me scolding messages about how Nathaniel Heatwole, the 20-year-old college student who bragged about bringing box cutters aboard an aircraft, is really a hero whistleblower, should be hanging their heads in shame. I declared that law enforcement authorities should throw the book at him because if they didn’t, others would soon copy him to get their 15 minutes of fame.

Well, here we go. More box cutters were found on board two US Airways airplanes in Boston and Philadelphia, according to law enforcement authorities. The FBI and Transportation Security Administration are investigating how the box cutters were brought on board. So far they don’t have a clue.

I have a notion about how the box cutters got there. I think we are seeing the front edge of a wave of copycat smugglers who liked how Heatwole was treated by the media – as a celebrity – and reasoned that if he was able to get his face on the front page, then maybe they could too!

When Heatwole appeared before a federal judge, he was released on his own recognizance with a limp warning that he should not fly around on airplanes for awhile. Maybe this judge was influenced by Heatwole’s baby-face looks, but those who are in charge of security are not so enamored. You know, it’s just possible that TSA and the FBI have better things to do than chase ridiculous pranksters through the airports.

There are dozens of warnings posted at the airport ordering passengers to rid themselves of prohibited devices before they come through the security monitors. Yet, they still bring the prohibited material anyway. Why? Because they forget, that’s why. And you know that some of these devices managed to end up on the plane where they remained hidden while the passenger prayed that his lapse was never discovered.

So, what are we going to do about this? What do we expect TSA to do? According to my source at the TSA, screeners are doing a pretty good job catching most of this stuff. “Since February 2002, TSA screeners have found and confiscated 1.4 million knives, 2.4 million sharp objects, 1,101 guns, 15,666 clubs, more than 125,000 incendiary items and nearly 40,000 box cutters.”

Do some of my critics still think Heatwole’s stupid prank amounted to something important? I would submit that just the opposite has happened. Not only has the positive reaction from citizens and media made this moron out to be some kind of hero, thereby encouraging others to follow in his footsteps, but attention has been taken away from more serious security problems TSA should be forced to repair.

For example, the witless process of selecting out people at random for further screening. How many terrorists who flew airplanes into buildings in 2001 were little old ladies in wheelchairs? How many were ladies? How many were toddlers? For that matter, how many were white males? The answer? None.

And yet, TSA – to maintain “political correctness” – has a system that could actually ignore a man who could clearly be a terrorist by his appearance, in favor of hassling a towheaded little boy terrified by the procedures at the airport. What should be an exciting adventure for a little boy or girl has become something of a terror – all in the name of “PC.” This insanity must end!

TSA has thought of a solution, “The screeners noticed the security processes overwhelmed children and sometimes caused them to cry, so the screeners began using hand-puppets and stickers to put the children at ease.” Swell.

Does anybody besides me think we are way off the track on screening the passengers at our nation’s airports? Forget about the box cutters! Arm the pilots like we said we were going to, and you have instantly solved the problem of box cutters. But it is the passengers, not the box cutters, who are the dangerous components that must be stopped at the gate. An 80-year old woman with a box cutter does not scare me. Right now, “PC” TSA screeners are what scare me.


This alert is a service of the Patrick Henry Center.

Gary Aldrich is the President and Founder of the Patrick Henry Center, an organization dedicated to educating the public about the life and philosophy of Patrick Henry, and to the promotion of Freedom of Speech, as well as the other Constitutional safeguards enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The Patrick Henry Center is a 501©(3) nonprofit, non-partisan Educational and Charitable Foundation. It does not support endorse or oppose candidates, or propose legislation.

To interview Mr. Aldrich, call Leah Heisig (703) 691-2301

For more information on airline security and arming airline pilots see - Airline Pilots Security Alliance

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