Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Knives, Bowling Balls, and the TSA

I'm sure you have all heard that as of April 25, 2013 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow passengers to bring knives onto planes in a carry-on bag. This complete reversal from 9-11 security policy does not surprise me. This recent policy change is actually right in line with TSA's inconsistent security procedures.

According to the TSA, knives with blades no longer than 2.36" and no wider than 1/2" are now allowed inside airliner cabins. Despite the fact that knives (specifically box cutters) took down three planes on 9-11 and most air travelers have a stigma in their mind that knives and planes don't mix, the TSA is allowing knives. I've discovered two main reasons why the TSA will permit knives on planes:

  1. A knife can no longer take down a plane because the cockpit is locked and the pilots will not open the door for any reason. 
  2. Allowing knives in carry-on luggage will free up more time for TSA screeners to look for explosives.
Both viable reasons if you are a TSA bureaucrat and not the random flyer. I fall into the latter category and do not buy into these reasons.

First even a short, dull knife can do major damage. Has the TSA never watched the movie 127 Hours? In his best "You know Mom" voice, my teenage son filled me in on the many ways you can kill a person with a pocket knife. Secondly perhaps the TSA should look at and talk to the people going through the security line instead of searching for non-existent explosives lodged in elderly grandmother's hips or tucked in a 9-year old boy's socks. Can you tell I've had a few too many TSA-related travel incidents on my occasional travels?

TSA security policy does confuse me, and I would love an explanation why certain items are not considered a security threat. In the United States a passenger can bring onto a plane the following assortment of items: knitting needles (the long steel ones, not just plastic), ice skates (talk about a sharp blade with a serrated edge), hockey and lacrosse sticks, small baseball bats, two golf clubs (one for each hand), and bowling balls.

Don't you think that any one of these items could cause bodily harm or create chaos on an airplane if they were used by a passenger as a weapon? I don't know all that much about airline security policy, but I know I would not want to face someone wielding a hockey skate or lacrosse stick! The TSA seems more concerned with keeping airplanes in the air than with passenger and flight attendant safety in the cabin.

Tomorrow the TSA chief John Pistole is scheduled to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee in Washington? I will be interested in hearing his logic when he defends the return of knives on airplanes.

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