Letters To The Editor


October 24, 2003

Smuggler offers key lesson on security failures

Nathaniel T. Heatwole, the young man who smuggled box cutters, modeling clay shaped like plastic explosives and other banned items aboard jets, should not be prosecuted by the federal government ("Airport breach suspect faces federal charges," Oct. 21).

He obviously was concerned that a lot of the hoops we jump through in order to board an airplane were just facades to give the public a warm, fuzzy feeling of safety. He proved that this was true.

At the worst, Mr. Heatwole exposed the bureaucracy and embarrassed the Transportation Security Administration. But even Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge stated that "we may learn something" from this incident.

Mr. Heatwole is not a terrorist but a concerned citizen. His actions may be questioned, but slap him on the wrist and send him on his way.

Michael Dobak


Nathaniel T. Heatwole may become a victim of a "shoot the messenger" approach. But he has demonstrated what every thinking person can see - that our airport security system is an expensive joke.

We have all spent enough time in line to figure out how to beat the system. Let's change it so that it is effective, not the government-inspired bluff that it is today.

Hank Bullwinkel

Upper Falls

TSA needs to review safety procedures

When Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says "we may learn something" that can be applied nationwide from the recent airport security breach ("Airport breach suspect faces federal charges," Oct. 21), one hopes his concern is not only to prevent citizens from testing airport security, but to ensure that his agency does a better job.

It should be routine for the Transportation Security Administration to test its own ability to discover potential threats.

As wrongheaded as it may have been for someone allegedly to test security on his own, the lesson is that the TSA is not currently able to do its job, and should improve its systems and probe them for flaws.

David Schwartz


Student should pay the costs of his prank

Nathaniel T. Heatwole describes his airline safety felonies as "civil disobedience," placing himself in the same league as Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. ("Box-cutter `sting' has admirers on Capitol Hill," Oct. 22).

But anyone who understands the concept of civil disobedience knows that it involves calling public attention to a law that one opposes by violating it and then accepting the punishment that the law prescribes. Mr. Heatwole's sophomoric stunt does not fall into this category.

He has not expressed opposition to the laws he has broken, and we'll have to wait and see how willing he is to serve any jail time to which he may be sentenced.

And whether or not he ends up spending any time in prison, he should be made to repay the monetary costs caused by his prank.

Jeffry D. Mueller


A reminder that danger still lurks

On Sept. 11, 2001, more than 3,000 lives were taken by a handful of zealots with $3 box cutters.

Many billions of dollars and two invasions and wars of vengeance later, a college student deflated the Bush fatuous "war on terrorism" by secreting similar box cutters and clay (in lieu of plastic explosives) on American jetliners ("Airport breach suspect faces federal charges," Oct. 21).

One is reminded of the story The Emperor's New Clothes. Only this time, I fear for the health, safety and freedom of the youth who pointed out the embarrassingly painful and obvious truth that everyone in the world seems to see but us: Sept. 11 can happen again at any time.

Michael S. Eckenrode


So many lawyers, so much idle time

When I saw the article "Pledge case to be heard by High Court" (Oct. 15), I quickly recalled the famous line in Shakespeare's play Henry VI: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

With all the trifling and ridiculous cases occupying the nation's courts, it's obvious to me that there are too many lawyers with too much idle time on their hands.

Jay H. Davis


Baseball must be accessible to kids

Thanks to Michael Hill ("Tuning Out," Oct. 19) and Kevin Cowherd ("Baseball doesn't get it: Kids matter," Oct. 20), for delivering a one-two punch on late-night postseason baseball games that really hit home for me.

When I was a budding 8-year-old fan growing up in northern New Jersey, I remember everyone cheering as the loudspeaker interrupted our elementary school classroom to blurt out that the Mets had just clinched the 1973 National League East.

I rushed home from school every afternoon to catch the rest of the game, which had started even earlier. I pitched along with Jon Matlack and Tom Seaver and swung my little bat like Felix Millan and Bud Harrelson.

I was overjoyed as my team beat the Cincinnati Reds in the National League playoff and crushed as they lost the World Series to the Oakland A's in an excruciating seventh game. I was hooked for life.

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