TSA Could Implement Knife Policy without Warning

Posted on May 3, 2013

Click for a larger viewFlight Attendant advocacy, public outcry and congressional scrutiny led to the TSA announcing a delay for implementation beyond the original April 25, 2013 date. This is a welcome reprieve, but all indication from TSA and DHS is that we will only experience a temporary delay while the agency works to “properly communicate” its position. Janet Napolitano testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security following the delay announcement and stated, “I wouldn’t say that [Pistole] has reopened the ultimate conclusion.”

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When you call your Senators and Representatives state:

“My name is _______ and I’m a Flight Attendant and constituent. I oppose the TSA plan to allow knives in the aircraft cabin. Please support bipartisan legislation to keep knives out of the aircraft cabin. Transportation security does not stop at the cockpit door.  Flight Attendants and passengers are not acceptable casualties in aviation security. Our country owes it to those we lost on 9/11 and all of us on the frontlines of aviation today – no knives, ever again.  Thank you.”

Our objection is simple – allowing knives makes us less safe and secure: no knives, ever again.  In cases where common sense is not enough and where Pistole’s arguments must be countered, present these three key points:

1) Permitting knives in the cabin is an unnecessary risk to the traveling public and violates the Administrator’s duty—as set out by Congress. Knife companies are already advertising “TSA Approved” knives that can be bought with hardened blades for use as a weapon in the cabin. Dismissing the risk to passengers and crew will have dire consequences. Both TSA and DHS state the rule change is predicated on a risk-based analysis. The problem is that TSA is failing to apply a risk-based analysis to the passenger cabin and that is where this rule change to lift the ban on knives is fatally flawed.  Administrator Pistole has plainly communicated to Congress that his job is “to ensure the safety and security of the traveling public by preventing catastrophic terrorist attacks.” But Pistole is unwilling to accept his responsibility for protecting the traveling public and flight crews. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act mandates that the Administrator “protect passengers…against an act of criminal violence or aircraft piracy,” and to “ensure the safety and integrity of…all persons providing services with respect to aircraft providing passenger air transportation.”

2) Contrary to the Administrator’s assertion that he is merely aligning U.S. security standards with international standards, there is no uniform international standard governing knife size on board the aircraft. While the European Union allows small knives on board flights, Canada, Israel, and Taiwan do not. As recently as April 25, 2011, there was an incident on Alitalia where a Flight Attendant was assaulted by a man with a small knife.  Further, the United States has traditionally implemented more restrictive security procedures and standards than the international community.

3) Restricting a certain knife size, in lieu of a complete ban on knives, is less efficient and will likely result in longer lines at the airport security checkpoint. In fact, when removing certain small scissors and tools from the prohibited items list, TSA had similarly asserted that TSOs would be better able to focus on higher risk items. Upon review, however, the Government Accountability Office concluded that there was no evidence that the change would “free up TSO resources that could be sued to implement other security measures.” GAO-07-623R (Apr. 25 2007). The GAO has reached the same conclusion in two additional reports. GAO-07-634 (April 2007); GAO-09-177R (Dec. 5 2008).

TSA Administrator Pistole has indicated that only an act of Congress will change his position on removing knives from the prohibited items list. This is why we continue to press for H.R. 1093, The No Knives Act of 2013, in the House, and companion legislation in the Senate.