NEW YORK >> Some family members of victims killed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks sai today that they are outraged by the Transportation Security Administration’s decision to let passengers carry pocketknives on planes.
TSA Administrator John Pistole announced Tuesday that airline passengers will be able to carry pocketknives with blades less than 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch wide. Souvenir baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment also will be permitted starting next month.
The agency said the policy aligns the U.S. with international standards and allows the TSA to concentrate on more serious safety threats.
Unions representing flight attendants and other airline workers decried the change, and several relatives of people killed when terrorists hijacked four U.S. airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, criticized the move as well.
"I’m flabbergasted," said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was killed at the World Trade Center. "I’m really disgusted by this latest news."
Regenhard said she recently had a container of yogurt confiscated by the TSA because it was a gel. "I’m just wondering why a yogurt is more dangerous than a penknife or a golf club," she said.
Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles was the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, said a pocketknife can be just as deadly as a box cutter, like the ones the hijackers used. Box cutters will still be banned under the new rules.
"When you’re drawing a blade against someone’s neck, they’re quite lethal," Burlingame said. "This is bad news."
Burlingame said Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told interrogators that the hijackers each used "a Swiss knife," a brand of pocketknife, to butcher a sheep and a camel as part of their training. The transcript of the 2003 interrogation was part of the 9/11 Commission Report.
Burlingame suspects the TSA decided to allow folding knives because they are hard to spot. She said the agency’s employees "have a difficult time seeing these knives on X-ray screening, which lowers their performance testing rates."
Asked to respond, a TSA spokesman reiterated that "the decision to permit these items as carry-on was made as part of TSA’s overall risk-based security approach and aligns TSA with international standards."
Several relatives of those who died on United Flight 93, whose passengers tried to wrest control of the plane before it crashed in Shanksville, Pa., questioned the policy change.
"What’s the difference between a pocketknife and a box cutter, for crying out loud?" asked David Beamer, whose son Todd led the Flight 93 revolt with the words, "Let’s roll." ”I cannot see the upside to this."
Alice Hoagland, whose son Mark Bingham was another leader of the attempt to take back Flight 93, called it "a dreadful mistake to loosen the rules."
"We are increasing the chances of flight attendants and passengers being attacked while in the air," said Hoagland, a retired flight attendant. "This decision was made in order to make the TSA look a little better, to ease up on the standard so they won’t have egg on their face."
Hamilton Peterson, who lost his father and stepmother on Fight 93, said, "I have enormous respect for the great work of the TSA; however, I am concerned this may undermine overall counterterrorism vigilance and may well prove to be dangerous to future passengers and crew who will inherit the danger resulting from this decision."