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Five weeks. The box cutters were on the planes for five frickin' weeks before anyone noticed, even though the kid who did it told the TSA all about it:

On Sept. 15, the Transportation Security Administration received an e-mail from Heatwole stating he had "information regarding six security breaches" at the Raleigh-Durham and Baltimore-Washington airports between Feb. 7 and Sept. 14, the FBI affidavit said.

"The writer stated that he smuggled several items on his person and some in his carryon bag," the affidavit said.

The e-mail provided precise details of where the plastic bags were hidden right down to the exact dates and flight numbers and even provided Heatwole's name and telephone number. It's unclear whether Heatwole actually hid items on four other planes.

"The e-mail author also stated that he was aware his actions were against the law and that he was aware of the potential consequences for his actions, and that his actions were an 'act of civil disobedience with the aim of improving public safety for the air-traveling public,'" the affidavit said.

The e-mail was signed, "Sincerely, Nat Heatwole."

The affidavit does not say what was done about the e-mail after it was received in September. The bags containing box cutters and other items were not discovered until last Thursday night, after a lavatory on one of the planes had maintenance problems and workers found them.

The TSA did not send the e-mail to the FBI until last Friday. FBI agents quickly tracked down Heatwole and interviewed him.

Replies: 2 Confessions

If by "interview" they mean "suspend by means of a rope around the ankles from an overhead beam and beat on the soles of the feet."

elavil @ 10/20/2003 02:10 PM CST

In American we simply have way too many flights from far too many cities. After 9/11 I read an article where it said on a daily basis there are over 5,000 flights. On a DAILY basis. We can't and probably shouldn't expect to catch all of the illegal contraband. It's like those local TV stations doing a 5-part investigative news series on government waste. If you look for it, you'll find it every time. As a consumer I just want security to be beefed up and I want procedures to be as stringent as possible with the knowledge that an air-traveling public will only tolerate so many inconveniences.

Jor-El @ 10/26/2003 07:30 AM CST

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