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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Homeland Security Lesson by a Student

October 25, 2003

Re "TSA Draws Fire Over Breaches in Security," Oct. 22: If a 20-year-old college kid can sneak banned materials through the airport and aboard a plane -- six times -- my question is, how safe is commercial flight? My answer is, not very. Which, I suppose, is why Nathaniel Heatwole did what he did: to point that out. More frightening, though, is the e-mail he sent to the Transportation Security Administration telling them what he had done. It sat there, unattended, for five weeks. Unbelievable!

I wrote an e-mail to the Coca-Cola Corp. (I don't like commercials in movie theaters) and I received a personal response in 24 hours. Apparently the TSA cares less about public safety than Coca-Cola does about selling Cokes.

Now the government will try to take it all out on young Heatwole: He broke the law, he put people in danger, he must pay the price. If anyone should pay a price, let it be the people who allowed what could have been a deadly e-mail to lie in wait for five weeks. Heatwole deserves an award.

Bart Braverman

Los Angeles

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Instead of charging the kid who put the box cutters on the planes with a crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Homeland Security should hire him: It seems he's done a lot more to get security beefed up at airports than they have.

Bob Gale

Pacific Palisades

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Re "A Breach That Can Teach," editorial, Oct. 22: You know we're in trouble when a voice of reason like The Times editorializes about air security: "If worse comes to worst, the Air Force is prepared to shoot down hijacked airplanes." That's the problem, not a solution to air security. Just like the cops on the street and the soldiers in Iraq, it's American policy to shoot first and ask questions later. There will be a lot of questions when a U.S. airliner is shot down by its own Air Force. There's more danger in the sky from trigger-happy cowboys than terrorists.

Robert Bubnovich

Irvine

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