Put that Knife Back in Your Pocket

A few years ago, someone sent me a little knife that, when you push a lever, the blade flies from inside the stock. It is a wicked little weapon that I had put away and forgot about. I found it during my annual office spring cleaning.

The timing for this discovery couldn’t have been better. TSA had just announced its new policy allowing such items to be carried on airplanes. "Really?" I asked myself. I can legally carry this 2.36-inch weapon on a flight?

I walked out of my office to conduct a survey among co-workers. I asked them to watch as I sprung the loaded blade from its case. “I can carry this on an airplane now. Do you think that is a good idea?” I asked.

TSA has bumbled along for years, getting away with incompetency and bullying, but this idea is the worst yet. My knife is small, but it is lethal and deadly. I put it right back where I found it, in a credenza drawer.

Flight attendants, pilots and federal air marshals are part of the backlash to the TSA’s new policy for allowing passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment like souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs on a flight. Now, who knows more about airline safety and security than this group?

The TSA had this to say about the new policy:

“Through TSA’s layered approach to security, and to align more closely with International Civil Aviation Organization standards, effective April 25, 2013 TSA will allow knives that do not lock, and have blades that are 2.36 inches or 6 centimeters or less in length and are less than 1/2 inch in width, novelty-sized and toy bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs as part of their carry-on baggage. This is part of an overall Risk-Based Security approach, which allows Transportation Security Officers to better focus their efforts on finding higher threat items such as explosives.”

(TSA provided Security Today with the following video to demonstrate what an explosive is capable of.)

What is a higher threat item? Weren’t the box cutters in 2001 a high enough threat to warrant this policy stay in effect? What is the purpose of more closely aligning ourselves with International Civil Aviation Organizations? We are the United States. We have our own rules and regulations.

The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which represents nearly 90,000 flight attendants, is coordinating a nationwide legislative and public awareness campaign to reverse the policy and prevent knives from being allowed on planes.

“Our nation’s aviation system is the safest in the world thanks to multilayered security measures that include prohibition on many items that could pose a threat to the integrity of the aircraft cabin,” FAUC said in a statement. “The continued ban on dangerous objects is an integral layer in aviation security and must remain in place.”

Well said, but it is really disturbing that TSA seemingly did not consult with other stakeholders, such as the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, of which federal air marshals are included. FLEOA is asking Congress to block the policy change.

The pilots’ association adamantly opposes this move, saying, “We believe the (terrorism) threat is still real and the removal of any layer of security will put crewmembers and the flying public unnecessarily in harm’s way.”

The events of 9/11 forever changed the way travelers plan their flights. Most have security foremost in their minds. There are, of course, a few that “forget” they have a loaded gun in their carry-on luggage, and it’s for this reason that allowing passengers to carry knives, sports equipment and other items in question shouldn’t occur.

Aviation security is neither terrorist-proof nor is it psycho-proof, but travelers must be protected. Given recent violence and terrorism in the United States, this poorly designed policy change benefits no one. It seems TSA’s only concern is protecting the cockpit of an airplane, but is the flying public expendable, disposable and irrelevant to air travel safety?

“We don’t see how these changes support this priority,” said Joe Strickland, head of American operations for Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, a leading global aviation insurer. “Safety is the highest priority of every commercial air carrier, flight crew member and air traffic controller.”

The true security plan lies within the confines of the aircraft cabin. Reinforced cockpit doors and passengers who have taken matters into their own hands have thwarted the acts of aberrant, abusive passengers.

The industry in general disagrees with the policy change, and some members of Congress are urging TSA Administrator John Pistole to drop the proposal, warning that if he doesn’t, Congress may take steps to block it. TSA is saying it must focus on new threats, which doesn’t mean the old threats don’t exist. There are plenty of things on a flight that could be used to hurt anyone. There is no reason to add more.

For me, it is real simple. If you give someone 2.36 inches, they are likely to take 2.36 miles. For TSA to add a few potential weapons only means trouble. People don’t need to carry this junk on board. There are already too many bags, briefcases and laptops to make the flight uncomfortable.

For security’s sake, leave your knives at home.

This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Security Today.

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