For the life of me, I cannot understand why everyone is dumping on 20-year-old Nathaniel Heatwole (search), the kid who somehow managed to plant box cutters and other nefarious items on two airplanes.

Now he faces 10 years in the slammer. For what? For embarrassing some people?

We shouldn't be condemning Heatwole. We should be thanking him. But no, he likely goes to jail and the bumbling boobs who should have found his stuff keep their jobs.

Something isn't right here. I mean, Heatwole wasn't exactly hiding. He personally e-mailed the Transportation Security Administration (search) back on September 15 about at least six serious breaches of airport security on Southwest Airlines at Raleigh-Durham and Baltimore-Washington airports. Box cutters that were never found. Questionable contraband like duct tape and bleach that were never questioned. And here's the kicker: All this stuff sat there hidden in airline bathrooms for five weeks. Five weeks!

What's more the kid sends the e-mail, with his name, with his phone number, with everything but his astrology chart, to the TSA, where it sits, un-answered, un-addressed, un-anything for more than a month.

Newsflash! The kid isn't the problem. The TSA is. And now this massive 70,000-plus behemoth of a bureaucracy is ticked.

You’ve got to be kidding me!

Agency Deputy Administrator Steve McHale sniffed to the Daily News that "amateur testing of the system like this does not in any way assist us where there are flaws."

Hey, Steve-o, wake up, will ya? A kid exposed you for what you are: pumped up, but hardly living up to your edict.

Rather than condemning the kid, buy him a drink. In fact, buy him an outfit and hire him! He knows your weaknesses. And he knows how terrorists can know your weaknesses. And don't be so damn defensive. You botched it. Now get over it and please, deal with it.

I've always feared there's something very wrong with a system that practically strip-searches an 82-year-old grandmother but lets a guy who looks like Usama bin Laden sail right through to the gate.

No, a 20-year-old with a penchant for publicity isn't the problem. An agency with a penchant for screwing up, is.

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