Ex-U.S. air security screener charged in threats against LA airport

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 11, 2013 6:28 PM
Ex-U.S. air security screener charged in threats against LA airport

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former federal airport security agent suspended earlier this year after he was accused of telling a teenage girl to cover herself, an incident chronicled on her father's blog, was charged on Wednesday with making threats against Los Angeles International Airport.

Nna Alpha Onuoha, a Nigerian-born U.S. military veteran, was arrested shortly before midnight on Tuesday in connection with written and telephone threats made hours after his resignation from the Transportation Security Administration and on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Onuoha, 29, was charged in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles with making threats affecting interstate commerce and staging a hoax. He did not enter a plea during a brief court appearance on Wednesday, and was ordered back to court next week for a detention hearing.

According to an affidavit filed by FBI agent David Gates, Onuoha was suspended from his job as a TSA screener for a week in July after being accused of making inappropriate comments to a 15-year-old girl in his security line.

The girl's father, Mark Frauenfelder, founder of the website Boing Boing, made headlines in June when he blogged about the incident, writing that a TSA screener had "humiliated and shamed" his daughter.

In the blog post, Frauenfelder wrote that the TSA agent had glared at his daughter and mumbled to himself before telling her, "You're only 15, COVER YOURSELF!" in a hostile tone.

Frauenfelder did not identify the TSA screener, but described his daughter as "shaken up" and said he subsequently complained to the TSA and airport officials.


According to Gates' affidavit, Onuoha returned to the TSA's headquarters at the Los Angeles airport on Tuesday afternoon, some four hours after resigning, and left a sealed express-mail envelope addressed to a manager there.

Gates said Onuoha called TSA officers twice and airport police once that afternoon, advising that they should begin evacuating the airport. The FBI said he told an airport police officer that he was "going to deliver a message to America and the whole world."

Law enforcement officers cleared several terminals following the phone calls, but no threat was found.

The package Onuoha left was found to contain an eight-page document titled "The End of America, the End of Satan, we were not defeated," which expressed his thoughts on the episode involving Frauenfelder's daughter, the affidavit said.

Following the alleged threats, Joint Terrorism law enforcement agents went to Onuoha's apartment in a suburban Los Angeles veterans' housing complex and found it empty, Gates said, except for a handwritten note taped to a closet door that read: "09/11/2013 THERE WILL BE FIRE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!"

Onuoha was later arrested in his van in a church parking lot in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, law enforcement officials said.

Gates wrote in the affidavit that when Onuoha was interviewed following his arrest, he told FBI agents he did not intend the statements in his calls as threats and that he had no plan to engage in violent conduct.

Police on Wednesday evacuated part of the apartment building where Onuoha lived as a precaution after finding a suspicious package there, but said later that nothing dangerous was found.

Onuoha, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)