September 3rd, 2010
12:50 PM ET

Man questioned at Miami airport released; no charges

[Updated at 12:50 p.m.] The man questioned overnight by the FBI after authorities found a suspicious object in his luggage at Miami International Airport has been told he is free to go, a U.S. government official told CNN.

"The container was a legitimate experiment," the official said, adding that the man, a U.S. citizen, will not be charged.

READ THE FULL STORY AT CNN.COM

[updated at 10:55 a.m.] The man currently being questioned by the FBI after a suspicious object was found in his luggage at Miami International Airport is a scientist who once spent time in prison for illegally transporting vials of deadly bubonic plague, CNN has learned.

The 70-year-old man, whom CNN is not naming because he has not been charged, was convicted of transporting the plague nearly a decade ago.

The man's criminal history helps explain why authorities shut down much of Miami International Airport late Thursday for about eight hours, and why first responders in hazmat suits were dispatched to the scene.

Authorities now say the man is cooperating with investigators, and that the device - which looked like a pipe bomb - found inside his checked luggage was found to be harmless.

The man had arrived on a flight from Brazil when TSA screeners found the device. Screeners were screening the bag evidently because it was to be placed on a connecting flight.

Authorities stress that the man has not been charged.

[Original post] A passenger was detained and bomb squad investigators were at Miami International Airport on Friday after investigators spotted a suspicious item in a baggage screening area, authorities said.

A passenger was in law enforcement custody, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement early Friday morning. Authorities did not provide details about whether the passenger had been charged or what investigators found.

All concourses of the airport except for Concourse J were closed early Friday, said Javier Baez with Miami-Dade Police.

Concourses E and F were evacuated at 9:30 p.m. Thursday after the item was found, said Greg Chin, a Miami-Dade Aviation Department spokesman. Authorities rerouted arriving flights to other parts of the airport.

Investigators from Miami-Dade Police, the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security responded to the incident, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement. Airport roads were also closed "to ensure public safety," the statement said.

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Filed under: Air travel • Florida
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Dr. Miguel Contreras

    This is not our taxpayers deserve; why keep the name of the suspect and type of device anonymous? After all. this is not the ONLY one case we had. If No Name and no name of deadly device= NO CASE.

    September 3, 2010 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Veganistic

      people give the bubonic plague such a bad wrap...

      September 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • CNNREPLY

      Why is this guy allowed on a plane after his prior conviction.
      This country is more concerned with the rights of criminals that they are with the safety of its citizens.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      WHY would you want his name? He's been cleared of any wrongdoing.
      As for "device", it was a metal canister. Can you say THERMOS? I have a couple of Stanley stainless steel thermoses and Nissan makes a few models as well.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. zippit

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/15/national/main536631.shtml
    His name is Thomas Butler.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • KASH

      lol props man. good research skills. cnn needs to pay you.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. viper

    He's a member of the army of the 12 monkeys

    September 3, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jim P

    Another dry run?

    September 3, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. James T K

    He was in bed with the pharmaceutical companies.
    Money is the root of all evil!!!!!

    September 3, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • John1113

      Man, why does everybody get that wrong.. Money is just money... It's the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Money or even the love of money has no involvement in evil.
      The want of power and love of it is.
      Money and power are NOT necessarily the same thing. One has to know HOW to acquire power with resources available, money is optional.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Zee

    FYI, the 2 Yememi guys were found to be innocent, and this guy is a corrupt scientist.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • irfan

      hmmm! so this guy was not a moslem haan.

      September 3, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. steve

    that would be, according to search engines – Dr. Thomas C. Butler

    September 3, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. PuReWebDev

    He's not been charged, he's just not free to leave, classic.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. RobbW

    Dr. Miguel, I think the reason behind not releasing the suspect's name is to protect him in the eventuality that he has done absolutely nothing wrong. Suppose you are taking a flight somewhere and for whatever reason, airport security spots something in your luggage they think garners additional attention. They remove you and your luggage from the flight in order to conduct their investigation. However, before they complete their investigation and find there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about, they have already released your name and details to the media. The media, as usual, immediately runs with the story before checking out and verifying all details and sources. Wild speculation ensues. Within less than an hour, your name is posted on internet news sites around the world and you're are branded a suspected terrorist. Reporters get your address and set up camp outside your home ambushing your poor wife and kids as they return home. Reporters pummel them with questions like, "Did you know your husband was a terrorist?" "Are you a terrorist?" "Have you been teaching your children to hate Americans and how to build bombs?"

    Meanwhile, four hours later, airport security, TSA, FBI, and NTSB complete their investigation and realize you're just a plain Joe who unfortunately had an object in his checked baggage that resembled a pipe bomb, or cell a phone taped to a Pepto bottle, or a CD player with wires protruding from it, or a bong. In the end, it turns out to be a "personal enjoyment" device that you take with you on long trips to keep you satisfied until you happily return home to your loving wife. The officials release you and your luggage and book you on the next available flight with their sincere apologies.

    Unfortunately, the problem is that your name has been bantered about the blogosphere for the past four hours without any additional information being provided to the media by the "officials." No additional information = wild speculation! Fox News has plastered your photo on its Breaking News segment and somehow connected you with being a major funder of the proposed "Terror Mosque" in NYC. They have also erroneously determined that your wife and kids are illegals that you snuck into the country four years ago as part of your plan to wage holy war in the USA.

    But, but, but... The authorities said you did nothing wrong and it was all just a misunderstanding! Too bad!! Your life has already been destroyed in less than four hours! Now tell me, do you really want the authorities to release to the media details such as your name and the potentially embarrassing device they found in your baggage?!?!

    September 3, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Zee

      so true.

      September 3, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • MB

      Brings to mind of the case of Richard Jewell and the Atlanta Olympics bombing.

      September 3, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • M

      Agreed !

      September 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • FactChecker

      Yet when the two Muslim/Yemeni travelers garnered additional scrutiny CNN immedieatly released thier name along with interviews with thier co-workers, etc and these two were never charged as well. What's going on CNN did you learn from that mistake or do you only release names when they are Muslim/Arabs to further the paranioa?

      September 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Case in point. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were returning home from the Persian Gulf on vacation.
      We had round trip tickets with a month's stay at home.
      The TSA behavioral detection officer marked us as suspect because I got my wife a wheelchair when we got to the security line, the reason? She was pregnant and was cramping.
      After they made her stand for 20 minutes of a full manual search of her and our belongings, they decided to release me from the plastic booth I was being held in. I suspect it was the concern on my face as I watched my wife being nearly doubled over in pain during that time and my examination of the magnetic locks on the booth that gave them the hint that I should be examined SOON.
      As we began MY manual search, as soon as he patted me down, I walked over to my belongings and retrieved my identification, while stating my intent and that it MUST remain with me.
      He glanced at my CENTCOM ID and asked why we were being treated this way.
      I relied that I have no idea, he would need to ask the toady little man who marked us and our papers. But that I DO work for a known terrorist organization, the DoD. We terrorize the hell out of the chow line!
      He chuckled and released us.
      The cramping turned out to be the beginning of a miscarriage.
      Now, had the TSA decided to release our information to the media, I'd be on the front page as a terror suspect. I'd lose my clearance and hence my job. I'd be considered forever more as a terrorist to those who don't know the REST of the story AND all of that would be within 20 minutes.
      AND the government would end up in court and a few million dollars shorter on money.
      MEANWHILE, I wasn't the ONLY one who came from the CENTCOM AOR who went through this nonsense.
      One man, with a TOP SECRET security clearance was on the no fly list. He was removed from the list after the 4 star general complained about his man being detained every time he flew. One month later, he was re-added to the list.
      Apparently, Dillon is a REALLY big terrorist name. And terrorists in the middle east are all 6 foot 5 inch white guys from Texas.
      The TSA has had their heads up their butts since their inception. They show ZERO willingness to change. They keep people on a classified list and REFUSE to confirm or deny if someone's name is on the list, regardless of the privacy act of 1974 that states CLEARLY that if there is a government record on you, you have a right to know it.
      Nope, not for the TSSA!

      September 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. doofus

    the "deadly bubonic plague" ~ wasn't there an article, not too long ago, on CNN about a girl that got the plague and there were all "it's not deadly anymore, it's totally curable, it just wasn't back then" and how horrible it is for her once people found out she "had the plague" and everyone treats her weird and oh boy it's no big deal guys it's the 21st century for crying out loud and on and on?

    September 3, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Actually, it depends. Bubonic plague is treatable. Pneumonic isn't as easily treatable, as by the time doctors figure out what is going on, the lung infection has gone systemic.
      Otherwise, it's just a course of antibiotics.
      BUT, it IS a bioweapon watch item.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RobbW

    Jiminy Cricket... and so it begins. The fellow's name is already out. In what devious way will the media decide to ruin his life ?

    September 3, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. MEinFL

    I know Dr Butler and often drink with him. He likes Cuban cigars and often uses a metal case resembling a pipe to store them safely when he travels. He no longer experiments with the plauge, that was just a phase he was going thru. I believe he was travelling to Brazil to find companionship as he has been lonely lately. Please don't judge him. His prefered drink is single malt scotch. Please send him some once he has been cleared, as he will need it. I would also like to drink some of it with him.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. M

    Agreed 100% with RobbW.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeepers

    It sounds like there was reason for concern...and maybe it was a dry run.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Harry

    What a great legacy Mr. Bush left us.
    Thank you so much.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
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