Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Terrorist? Unwitting Smuggler? Victim?

The case of Randall Rustick of Fairfax County, Virginia, has everyone puzzled. The most complete account of this mystery has been Steve Ginsberg's December 24, 2004, article on page B01 in the Washington Post. The article was headlined, "Blade in N.Va. Man's Shoe Baffles Federal Authorities."

On December 21, 2004, Rustick, his wife, and four children were boarding a flight from Honolulu to Kauai to visit his mother. Rustick removed his dress shoes, placed them in a plastic tray for fluoroscopic examination by TSA security screeners, and walked through the magnetometer. His next step was into the Twilight Zone. The next thing he knew, he was in federal custody for having tried to carry a three-inch boxcutter blade onto an aircraft. The blade had been spotted on the fluoroscope screen. Further examination of the shoe revealed the blade concealed under the insole of his shoe.

Rustick denies any knowledge of the blade or how it got into his shoe. Nothing in the investigation so far indicates otherwise. Rustick believes the blade could have been concealed in his shoe six months ago when the shoes were repaired. But he has reportedly flown several times since then wearing the same shoes without the blade being detected.

Rustick spent Tuesday night in a federal detention facility. An Assistant US Attorney for the District of Hawaii does not believe Rustick is a danger and agreed with a federal district judge's decision to release him on the condition he not leave the country.

Still, everyone wonders how the blade got into Rustick's shoe. And why? Why him?

Authorities have to be concerned that someone may have placed the blade in Rustick's shoe to have him unwittingly smuggle it on board an aircraft where it could be retrieved by someone with malicious intent. But that is an incredible stretch of imagination. The instigator would have to know that fluoroscopic detection of the blade was possible, maybe likely, regardless of who was carrying it. And then, once on board the aircraft, how did the on-board terrorist plan to acquire Rustick's shoe? It is not a long flight from Oahu to Kauai, so it is unlikely that Rustick could be counted on to remove his shoe for comfort.

If the blade was placed in Rustick's shoe as a prank, then authorities will still want to know who and why. The way the blade was cleverly concealed suggests whoever placed it knew detection was possible. If someone emplaced the blade to cause Rustick's detention, that person ought to be charged with obstruction of justice or interfering with a federal agent. The Feds will also want to know when. How many times have Rustick's shoes been fluoroscopically inspected at TSA checkpoints and the blade's presence been overlooked?

This one is a mystery.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Randy Rustick here. Yes, it is a mystery how the blade got there. I still contend that it was an accident. The one interesting thing remains... am I on FBI investigation for the rest of my life? The whole incident has left me with nightmares about agencies taking me away from my family at night. It sounds obsured, but then the whole incident was obsured. It kinda makes you seem how fragile your whole existence can be...

6:22 PM, February 25, 2005  

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