Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole heads to Congress on Thursday to defend the agency’s plan to allow small knives on airplanes again, a decision criticized widely as a move that will make flying more dangerous.
The TSA is changing its rules, effective April 25, to let fliers carry knives with blades no longer than 2.36 inches and no wider than a half-inch, according to The Wall Street Journal
. Fixed or locking blades and knives with grip handles will still be banned.
The decision to reverse the no-knife policy in place since the 9/11 terrorist attacks has drawn fire from nearly every quarter, including several airlines, the TSA union, the public, and now Congress, where Rep. Ed Markey has introduced a bill to continue the ban on knives.
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According to Fox News, the Massachusetts Democrat presented his bill Tuesday because Pistole refused to reverse the recent policy change.
“If TSA won't reverse its policy to allow knives onto planes, then Congress will take action with this legislation,” he said. “There is no reason for a passenger to have a knife on a plane, and allowing knives on planes puts our flight attendants, pilots, and passengers at greater risk.”
TSA Spokesman David Castleveter acknowledged that the agency’s main responsibility is to prevent catastrophe. But he told The Wall Street Journal, “We don’t believe a terrorist would have any success bringing down an airplane with a small pocketknife.”
He said taking away the focus on small knives also allows TSA screeners to pay more attention to explosives.
But the screeners’ union says the rules change will create even more confusion about what is allowed to be carried on flights and complicate security by generating more arguments at checkpoints.
“If you try to go through with a knife now, they take it away from you. That’s it. No knives,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “Now they’ll have to stand and debate, ‘Is this knife two-point-whatever inches?’”
A petition on the White House website to block knives on planes has already gathered 27,000 signatures. It needs to draw 100,000 by April 5 to get the Obama administration to respond.
Castelveter said on-plane security, which includes federal air marshals, along with more educated fliers should keep the air-travel system safe.
The no-knives rule was adopted after the 9/11 terror attacks, in which box cutters were used to hijack the planes that were crashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
According to court records, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged planner of the attacks, “had each hijacker butcher a sheep and camel with a Swiss knife to prepare them for using their knives during the hijackings.”
Castleveter said box cutters will continue to be banned because of the “emotion” still surrounding them.
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