Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Man with Smoke Grenade Was Searched in S. Korea Arrived at Lax with Bulletproof Vest, Weapons

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Man with Smoke Grenade Was Searched in S. Korea Arrived at Lax with Bulletproof Vest, Weapons

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- South Korean security officials screened a man with a bulletproof vest before he got on a flight to Los Angeles, but they never detected a banned smoke grenade concealed in his checked luggage with a cache of knives, handcuffs, a gas mask and other weapons, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

Yongda Huang Harris and his carry-on luggage were thoroughly searched, but authorities found nothing suspicious, and he boarded the flight, said a Homeland Security official briefed on the investigation. The official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Harris, 28, was arrested in Los Angeles last week during a stopover on a trip from Japan after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers noticed the bulletproof vest. A search of Mr. Harris' checked luggage uncovered the smoke grenade and an array of suspicious items, including leg irons, body bags, a hatchet, billy clubs, a collapsible baton, duct tape and a biohazard suit.

U.S. officials were working with South Korean authorities to determine how the grenade slipped through screening.

Mr. Harris is not cooperating with federal officials trying to determine why he was headed to Boston with the weapons cache, authorities said. The smoke grenade was X-rayed by police bomb squad officers, who said the device fell into a category prohibited on board passenger aircraft.

Former Transportation Security Administration Deputy Administrator Tom Blank said the United States will likely scrutinize whether the failure to detect the grenade on a U.S.- bound jet was a one-time lapse or part of a wider security vulnerability. If the United States determines that another nation's airport doesn't meet U.S. standards, it can ask for stronger security measures and even bar flights directly to the United States from that country.

"This clearly looks like an error," Mr. Blank said of the grenade. "Something slipped through that should not have slipped through."

Many of the other belongings authorities say they found in Mr. Harris' luggage -- including the hatchet and knives -- wouldn't violate TSA guidelines for property in checked luggage. …

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