Monday, 20 October, 2003

Smuggling banned items onto airplanes

Surprise, surprise. Somebody smuggled some banned items onto a commercial airliner.  Go here for the details.

I caught early reports of this story last week, but then went into my normal weekend news blackout and didn't get an update until today.  I wasn't at all surprised when I heard the early reports of box cutters and other banned items being found on commercial aircraft.  I've long held (and pointed out here) that the "increased security measures" are just hand waving by Congress, FAA, TSA, and everybody else that is designed to make the traveling public think that "something is being done."  Aircraft and airports are not noticeably more secure today than they were before September 11, 2001.  It's simply not possible, in my opinion, to beef up security in any meaningful way without reducing the number of travelers and tromping all over some of our basic freedoms.

What did surprise me was that the perpetrator, a college student named Nathaniel Heatwole, stood up and said "I did it," knowing full well that he faced some rather stiff penalties.  I suspect many of us have wanted to carry a banned item through the checkpoint and turn around to say "see what I did," but the thought of being pounced on as a terrorist by an airport full of nervous travelers and security personnel is enough to deter me.  I have to admire the kid's courage in facing the consequences of his actions, and thank him for demonstrating the inadequacies of the new security systems.  It's one thing to perform an anonymous act of "civil disobedience" and then try to weasel out of it when you get caught.  It's another thing entirely to act in full view and stand your ground when faced with the consequences.  Unfortunately, I suspect most young people today will learn only the lessons they want to learn—it's okay to break the law if you have a good cause—and not the more important lesson:  regardless of your dedication to a cause, you must face up to the consequences of whatever actions you choose to take.