Why should he be punished? Isn't it the job of security to stop people going back the wrong way through metal detectors or whatever he did? US airline security before 9/11 was so non-existent you could pretty much anything you wanted, non-passengers going right to the gate etc. So some people took a while to get used to the new regime, hardly surprising, they'd had a lifetime of wandering about airports without hinderance.
I posted a few days ago about how I am worried about visiting the US since 9/11 and this is a perfect example of why. You make one innocent mistake and bam, anti-terrorist laws and god knows what else and you're in jail. If this guy had been a foreigner with a Syrian visa (ie me) he would have fitted quite easily into the new laws about "terror suspects" being detained and interrogated without access to a lawyer, etc etc. It'd be much more serious than a few weekends in jail and barred from a few sports matches. I know (as was pointed out in the thread, and I agree wholeheartedly) there's nothing to be worried about but one slip up like this and suddenly you're not going home for five years, or at the very least you'll be in custody for weeks without bail or representation. Know what I mean?
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz