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New TSA policy on knives, bats sparks backlash

By Joan Lowy

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:01 a.m. HST, Mar 08, 2013

WASHINGTON » Flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals and even insurance companies are part of a growing backlash to the Transportation Security Administration's new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment like souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs onto planes.

The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants, said it is coordinating a nationwide legislative and public education campaign to reverse the policy announced by TSA Administrator John Pistole this week. A petition posted by the flight attendants on the White House's "We the People" website had more than 9,300 signatures early toiday urging the administration to tell the TSA to keep knives off 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," the coalition, which is made up of five unions, said in a statement. "The continued ban on dangerous objects is an integral layer in aviation security and must remain in place."

Jon Adler, national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, whose 26,000 members include federal air marshals, complained that he and other "stakeholders" weren't consulted by TSA before the "countersafety policy" was announced. He said the association will ask Congress to block the policy change.

The Coalition of Airline Pilot Associations, which represents 22,000 pilots, said it opposes allowing knives of any kind in airliner cabins.

"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," Mike Karn, the coalition's president, said.

The new policy, which goes into effect on April 25, permits folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or less in length and are less than 1/2-inch wide. The policy is aimed at allowing passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other small knives.

Passengers also will be allowed to include in their carry-on luggage novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs. Items like box cutters and razor blades are still prohibited.

There has been a gradual easing of some of the security measures applied to airline passengers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The new policy conforms U.S. security standards to international standards and allows the TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, the agency said when it announced the change this week.

The policy change was based on a recommendation from an internal TSA working group, which decided the items represented no real danger, the agency said.

A TSA spokesman said the presence on flights of gun-carrying pilots traveling as passengers, federal air marshals and airline crew members trained in self-defense provide additional layers of security to protect against misuse of the newly allowed items.

Not all flights, however, have federal air marshals or armed pilots onboard.

The new policy has touched off a debate over the mission of TSA and whether the agency is supposed to concentrate exclusively on preventing terrorists from hijacking or blowing up planes, or whether it should also help protect air travelers and flight crews from unruly and sometimes dangerous passengers.

"The charter, the mission of TSA is to stop an airplane from being used as a weapon and to stop catastrophic damage to that aircraft," David Castelveter, a spokesman for the agency, said. Pistole's position is "these small knives, these baseball bats, these sporting items aren't going to contribute to bringing an airplane down," he said.

In era of reinforced cockpit doors and passengers who have shown a willingness to intervene, the threat from terrorism has been greatly reduced, Andrew R. Thomas, a University of Akron business professor and author of several books on the airline industry and security, said.

Rather, "acts of aberrant, abusive and abnormal passenger behavior known as air rage remain the most persistent threat to aviation security," he said.

The International Air Transport Association recently reported that the incidence of air rage cases was way up, with an estimated 10,000-plus such events annually, Thomas said.

Adler, representing the air marshals, said aviation security is neither "terrorist proof nor psycho proof," and both should be protected against.

TSA's "primary concern, and their only concern, is to protect the cockpit to make sure the planes aren't turned into missiles," he complained. "Traveling Americans are expendable, disposable and otherwise irrelevant to air travel safety."

The new policy has aviation insurers concerned as well.

"We think this move is a bad idea, and isn't in the interests of the traveling public or flight crews in the aviation industry," 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," he said. "We don't see how these changes support this priority."

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bender wrote:
So if a razor cutter poses a danger, then doesn't a 2" knife blade? Don't understand the logic of the TSA working group.
on March 8,2013 | 05:36AM
Allenk wrote:
These are the same folk that ban carrying on bottles of shampoo and hair gel and they want to allow folding knives under 2"?
on March 8,2013 | 07:28AM
bl8rnr wrote:
Liquids and gels were banned because terrorist were trying to sneak liquid explosives on board aircraft to blow it up.
on March 8,2013 | 09:41AM
false wrote:
I agree. How does this make sense and who was pushing for such a change?

I lost a Swiss Army knife years ago, long before 9/11, when I had it in my carry-on. But now-a-days, we all are forewarned not to try to carry anything like a knife onboard a plane. If they want to relax their security standards, how's about allowing us to carry more fluids and toiletries? But knives, baseball bats, golf clubs? Where is the urgency in changing THAT policy?

on March 8,2013 | 07:38AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Allowing any kind of instrment that can be used as a weapon, especially knives, should be banned.
on March 8,2013 | 05:36AM
nitestalker4 wrote:
when i was a fed at the airport starting in '88, the civilian screeners used to complain to me about the 4" knives being allowed thru the checkpoint and into the cabin. they complained the knives were a danger and should not be allowed. i would forward their complaints to my region at lax and to d.c. but they always came back saying the knives were allowed by the security program...which they wrote. after september 11th the screeners would come up to me and say...see, we told you (faa) what would happen but you didn't listen. if these knives, bats, etc are allowed on the aircraft i'm afraid tsa will learn the same lesson that faa did. so you protect the pilots and the cockpit...who's protecting the pax and rest of the flite crew if a group of people get on the aircraft and start a killing spree. imagine the ptsd and guilt the pilots will have after they safely land an aircraft with 200 dead pax in the back. saved the aircraft but lost all the pax. this is really stupid.
on March 8,2013 | 05:51AM
808comp wrote:
Items listed could still be a danger to have on board. Someone can cause lots of damage to the aircraft with a golf club if you ask me.
on March 8,2013 | 05:52AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Of course that would be possible if everyone else sat around and simply watched. While we individually may be in some potential danger from a small knife it's less danger than we face on our streets. I can imagine someone with a 2 foot baseball bat or a 2 inch knife blade announcing a hijacking. After the initial laughter someone would simply crank him. Of course if 20 or so terrorists got on the same plane it might be a different story.
on March 8,2013 | 11:02AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Passengers also will be allowed to include in their carry-on luggage novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs. Items like box cutters and razor blades are still prohibited. If you let me whack and poke you with any of the items mentioned, I bet I can make you forget what day it is.
on March 8,2013 | 06:03AM
markat wrote:
Sounds like everyone is in agreement that it's a bad idea except for the TSA whose reasoning is that it will give them times to focus on other threats. Like the threat of losing their job because they aren't doing their job correctly in the first place.
on March 8,2013 | 06:20AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Like Mick said "Now that's a knife"...
on March 8,2013 | 06:35AM
gshilo wrote:
TSA stands for The Stupid Agency.
on March 8,2013 | 06:51AM
BO0o07 wrote:
Good one. There are some very stupid or obnoxious TSA agents.
on March 8,2013 | 07:25AM
screaming_banshee wrote:
Yes, let's let knives on but continue to molest handicapped keiki and the fragile kupuna in wheelchairs. They can keep their knive and bats rule if they give us profiling.
on March 8,2013 | 07:23AM
loquaciousone wrote:
They have to check the little ones. It might be our Governor going back to DC.
on March 8,2013 | 07:24AM
screaming_banshee wrote:
I just laughed and shuddered at the same time - shuddered at the poor soul that has to do THAT pat down. *shudders again*
on March 8,2013 | 07:26AM
HD36 wrote:
They should then run background checks on people who've had training killing people with their bare hands. The art of Shibumi, (naked killing) teaches 23 different ways to kill with a pen or credit card.
on March 8,2013 | 07:38AM
loquaciousone wrote:
The picture of the TSA agent looks like my doctor when it's time to do that special senior exam.
on March 8,2013 | 07:42AM
loquaciousone wrote:
That picture of the TSA agent looks like my doctor when he's about to give me that SPECIAL senior exam.
on March 8,2013 | 07:42AM
black3000psi wrote:
of course it s a bad Idea but the people of TSA are so sick and tired of being verbally abused by passengers who have so easily forgotten why they are doing what they do that they have given up.every single passenger has an argument about why this is allowed and that is allowed then they get mad and file false complaints against TSA agents.they are tired of being abused and accused of wrong doing by the very people they are trying to protect.....so have it your way.
on March 8,2013 | 08:15AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Your shift at the airport must have just ended.
on March 8,2013 | 08:57AM
kennie1933 wrote:
So, walking through a TSA line, they will confiscate my dangerous bottle of water, but let me on with a 2" knife? As small as that might sound, if I grab a flight attendant or passenger and hold that 2" knife up to his/her neck, that's pretty dangerious! My daughter had her little souvenir snow globe confiscated, and she bought it at the airport! Those snow globes are evil and dangerous!
on March 8,2013 | 11:57AM
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