NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 1, 2013

Our view: Knives still pose a threat


Newburyport Daily News

---- — The often maligned airport security folks have a daunting job scanning and X-raying millions of passengers and luggage every day in America’s airports, all in an attempt to keep us safe. The time and hassles for passengers makes the flying experience less fun and more stressful.

So you might have expected the public to be happy when federal safety officials announced they were going to make changes to carry-on policies that would free up guards’ time to look for the largest threats and to speed the security process.

But when the Transportation Safety Administration said it was going to now allow people to carry small knives onto planes, the announcement brought mostly puzzlement and shock from the public and Congress.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, knives have been prohibited in airline cabins, along with box cutters, larger containers of liquids and a host of other items that could be used for mischief.

The change also will permit passengers to carry on sports equipment, including hockey sticks, shorter souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs.

The TSA says small knives don’t pose serious threats and they’d like their screeners to concentrate more on the biggest threat — explosive devices. And they say the relaxed restrictions, to take effect in late April, are in line with international flight rules.

It’s a bad idea that was badly decided by the TSA, which failed to even get input from flight attendant and pilot unions — groups both staunchly opposed to the relaxed standards.

Mike Low, father of flight attendant Sara Elizabeth Low, earlier this week released a letter through the flight attendants’ union asking that the policy change be overturned.

“On the morning of September 11, 2001, our Sara Elizabeth was working business class on American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston,” Low wrote. “She had to have witnessed in part or all, the stabbing of flight attendants and the murder of a passenger and the pilots, all by knives. Sara spent the last 30 minutes of her life performing her duties amidst that carnage.”

“I understand that the justification for your new policy is to expedite and make more convenient the security process at airports,” Low continued. “I can see no improvement in time or effort required, as under your new edict the inspectors will, instead of simply confiscating a knife, now have to stop, look, measure and probably argue about the legality of the knife. You have gained little or nothing and again put the flight crews and passengers more at risk. The terrorists have to be laughing at how naïve our government continues to be.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the agency’s policy change is a “risk-based approach that attempts to segregate out passengers ... and evaluate their risk.’’ She said they want to focus more on behavioral profiling — that Israel successfully uses in its airports — to focus on likely terrorists.

That’s a good idea but it doesn’t excuse the boneheaded idea of allowing people to bring knives on airplanes — knives that can cause plenty of mayhem and injury if wielded by unstable people, drunks or actual terrorists.

The flying public understands a little hassle is well worth creating safe flights. The TSA should reverse this wrongheaded decision.