- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) — Legal proceedings in connection with a college student who the FBI believes hid box cutters and other banned items aboard two Southwest Airlines planes are expected to take place today in the city’s federal court, federal officials said.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter said yesterday the FBI had no other information on the proceedings and directed calls to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore. Messages left with that office yesterday were not returned.

A federal law-enforcement official said Saturday that investigators interviewed the man, trying to learn how he bypassed airport screeners while also carrying bleach, modeling clay and notes that detailed his intention to test security. Government prosecutors were to decide after the interview what criminal charges to pursue, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Nathaniel Heatwole, a 20-year-old junior at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., told the Greensboro News & Record that he was interviewed by the FBI about the incidents. The federal law-enforcement official confirmed that Mr. Heatwole was the student being questioned.

“I have a ton of stuff I’d like to say, but … I have to work with government before I work with the media,” Mr. Heatwole told the newspaper from his home in Damascus, Md.

A woman who identified herself as Mr. Heatwole’s sister told an Associated Press reporter in Damascus on Saturday that her brother had no comment. Telephone calls to the Heatwole home in Damascus yesterday were not answered.

The discovery of the box cutters and other items triggered stepped-up inspections of the entire U.S. commercial air fleet, roughly 7,000 planes. But after consulting with the FBI, the Transportation Security Administration rescinded the inspection order. No other suspicious bags were found in the inspection.

Mr. Heatwole has committed rebellious acts before. He told the campus newspaper he refused to register for the draft when he turned 18, as required by law. Instead, he returned a blank registration form to the Selective Service System along with a letter explaining his opposition.

CNN quoted a Bush administration official as saying that an e-mail warning to the government described the airline actions as “civil disobedience” and necessary to create awareness of aviation-security weaknesses.

Mr. Heatwole is a double-major in political science and physics, and hosts a college radio show.

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