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Schiavo Defends Airport Check

March 16, 1999

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ The former inspector general of the Transportation Department defended her attempt to test airport security by checking a suspicious bag, saying Monday she did nothing wrong.

``I did not do anything illegal, and it’s not illegal to buy a ticket, check a bag and not get on a plane,″ Ms. Schiavo said on NBC’s ``Today″ show.

Ms. Schiavo, a critic of airline safety in the United States, said she agreed to help a television station test security at Port Columbus International Airport on Friday by checking a bag that should have attracted the attention of security.

She said she was trying to prove that bags are not routinely X-rayed before being loaded on a plane, and that bags are sometimes allowed to take off without their owners on board. International flights do not permit unattended passenger luggage to take off.

Ms. Schiavo’s bag, which contained a tape recorder, a can of shaving cream, a racquet ball can and some wiring, did not leave with the flight bound for Washington. It was unclear if that was due to airport security checks or because the television station, WCHM-TV, had informed the airport about the bag prior to takeoff.

In any event, the bag was taken to a screening area at some point and drew attention when X-ray screeners saw what it contained. The airport concourse was evacuated, and the bag was taken outside and investigated, shutting down a runway for four hours.

Airport officials complained that the suspicious bag disrupted the airport. The FBI is investigating whether any laws were broken. The FBI would not discuss its investigation, and the Federal Aviation Administration would not comment on what possible laws may have been broken.

Ms. Schiavo said she was sorry for any inconvenience ``but it was done by the airport with the full knowledge of what was going on.″

The television station said the airport was informed in advance it would be doing a report on airport security Friday.

Ms. Schiavo resigned from her federal post in 1996 after criticizing the FAA on several occasions. Since then she has published a book accusing the FAA of sloppy inspections, lax airport security and disregard for bogus airplane parts.

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