Bioweapon scare shuts down Miami International Airport

Most of Miami International Airport was shut down overnight last Thursday after suspicious items were found in the luggage of a scientist who had once been charged with illegally transporting bubonic plague.

Dr. Thomas Butler was detained until Friday morning before being released without charges, a senior law enforcement official said, reports.

Suspicions were aroused when a metal canister was found in Butler's luggage. The canister, which had been brought from the Middle East, was found to contain nothing dangerous after tests were conducted.

Nicholas Kimball, a Homeland Security spokesman, told the Associated Press that the canister resembled a pipe bomb.

Butler, a world-renowned plague researcher, was the subject of a federal investigation in 2003 after he reported that 30 vials of plague samples had been stolen from his lab at Texas Tech University. He was acquitted of smuggling and illegally transporting the potential bioweapon and of lying to federal agents about the missing vials, reports.

Butler was, however, found guilty by jurors of mislabeling and unauthorized exports of a FedEx package he sent to Tanzania that contained plague samples. Butler was also convicted of fraud and theft and sentenced to two years in jail for defrauding Texas Tech through illegally negotiated contracts he held with pharmaceutical companies that had provided him with clinical studies contracts.

The latest trouble with the law began when a TSA inspector saw an odd container as Butler was going through customs, the senior law enforcement official told the Associated Press. Butler's name was then run through a database, which revealed that he had been tried on plague-related charges. The airport was then evacuated and butler detained.

Law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that Butler cooperated fully with their investigation.