Airport Scare: Not a Bomb (or the Plague)

Scientist once busted for 'unauthorized export' of samples
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2010 4:42 PM CDT
A Miami-Dade bomb squad truck leaves Miami International Airport in Miami, Friday, Sept. 3, 2010.   (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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(Newser) – Great news: The guy carrying a suspected pipe bomb in his luggage at Miami airport wasn't carrying a pipe bomb after all. Not-so-great news: He's been busted previously for shady business regarding the transportation of plague bacteria. This, too, however, isn't as sinister as it might appear: The traveler is 70-year-old Thomas C. Butler, a world-renowned expert on infectious diseases. Butler, who has been released without charges, got stopped when screeners found a metal canister in his bag.

The discovery prompted a bomb scare, but FBI tests revealed nothing dangerous. However, Butler's previous case, once featured on 60 Minutes, raised alarms: He first got in hot water with the feds in 2003 when he reported the theft of 30 vials of plague samples from his Texas Tech lab. Then it gets confusing, but he ended up serving 2 years in prison for, as AP puts it, "the mislabeling and unauthorized export of a FedEx package that contained plague samples he sent to Tanzania." Fellow scientists defended him throughout the case. More details at NBC Miami and the Miami Herald.

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