Security Eyed After Man Ships Self

A New York City man was arrested for shipping himself as cargo in a way to save money
AP / CBS
A homesick shipping clerk's trip from New York to Dallas in an airline shipping crate shows that America must do more to strengthen cargo security, a homeland security official said Wednesday.

Investigators from the federal Transportation Security Administration interviewed Charles D. McKinley twice to learn how he got past security to take the unauthorized weekend trip inside the wooden crate. McKinley, who startled his parents and a deliveryman when he broke out of the box outside their home, was arrested and jailed on unrelated bad-check and traffic charges.

Federal officials are considering additional charges of stowing away on a plane for McKinley's overnight trip.

McKinley was jailed on the week that Americans are remembering the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in which hijacked passenger planes were flown into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A federal official said closer screening of cargo is necessary.

"It certainly shows that we have more work to do on cargo security," Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security Department's undersecretary for transportation security, said in a broadcast interview. "We have to do it not just from a government standpoint and — but also from a private security. We have to work with the private sector. We expect these companies to know what goes into in these items and to make sure the shippers have some integrity to ship — that ship these goods."

Air cargo receives less federal security attention than passenger planes, in part because of its sheer volume. Critics have suggested that terrorists could use cargo flights as weapons.

CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan reports that while McKinley traveled aboard an all-freight jet operated by Kitty Hawk Cargo, 22 percent of the nation's packages travel on passenger planes instead.

Federal officials want to know how the stowaway bypassed airport security.

"Well, it is a concern, and we're still developing the facts in terms of what happened with the shipping company — were the proper security measures taken," Hutchinson said. "We have concentrated in recent months on protecting aircraft that carry people. We've also imposed security regulations on any aircraft weighing over 12,500 pounds.

"But we have more work to do."

McKinley told investigators that he filled out shipping instructions saying the crate held a computer and clothes. Authorities believe he had help from at least one co-worker at the warehouse where he works in New York when he loaded himself in the box. It was taken by truck from New York's Kennedy Airport to New Jersey, then loaded onto a pressurized, heated cargo plane operated by Kitty Hawk Cargo.

From there, it flew from Newark, N.J., to Niagara Falls, N.Y., then to the carrier's hub in Fort Wayne, Ind., and on to Dallas, the FBI said. Billy Ray Thomas, a driver for Pilot Air Freight, picked up the crate Saturday at DFW Airport and delivered it to McKinley's parents' home in suburban DeSoto.

"Truly, I'm not a terrorist," McKinley said from his jail cell. "My thing was, I just wanted to come home.

"I wish I wouldn't have done this. I wish this wouldn't have been going on."