Knives: Cleared for Takeoff?

A memo by TSA Staff is being criticized for suggesting passengers be allowed to carry scissors, ice picks, razor blades and knives.

It doesnt take long here at KCI, he said, but at other airports the wait can be up to two hours.

Other passengers dont want any compromise in security. The more the better, they say.

They should leave it the way it is, said Victoria Fitch of Portland, Ore, as she waited to board a plane in Kansas City. If it prevents an act of terrorism, then this has to be done.

For the 12 months ending Nov. 1, 2004, screeners at KCI collected more than 70,000 items, including 228 box cutters and about 23,000 knives of various sizes.

About 87,000 items were surrendered at KCI for the first eight months of this year, but more than 40,000 of those were lighters, which were banned beginning April 15, Harmon said.

Christopher Bidwell, managing director of security for the Air Transport Association, said the federal review was an attempt to better focus security efforts on passengers who might need additional screening.

What happened after 9/11 is you had just a multitude of additional security measures that just got put in place and there was no real analysis, said Bidwell, whose group is a trade association representing the airline industry.

Theyre really taking an in-depth look at this, saying, Do we really need to be doing certain things based on all the layers of security that we now have that we didnt before?

Over time, the system has improved, Bidwell said. He said some once-banned items, such as blunt-tipped scissors and butter knives, are now allowed on the plane.

Some aviation security experts dont see small blades as the biggest threat facing airplanes anymore. They note that cockpit doors are now reinforced. There are more sky marshals. And passengers are more watchful.

The small tiny knife blade is not the threat that it used to be, said Rich Roth, an aviation security expert and executive director of CTI Consulting of Bethesda, Md. It certainly isnt the threat that it was prior to 9/11.

In the post-9/11 environment, passengers know that if a plane is hijacked they have to do something different, Roth said. Thats a post-9/11 lesson that I think the public has largely absorbed.

K. Jack Riley, a homeland security expert for the Rand Corp., said he would like to see authorities focus their efforts on finding passengers like Richard Reid, the infamous shoe-bomber, trying to smuggle explosives onto aircraft.

I think thats the real threat out there, he said.

What happened on 9/11 wasnt a function of box cutters as it was a surprise to the entire system that people would hijack planes and crash them. They could have just as easily hijacked the plane with any number of implements.

Terry Trippler, a Minneapolis-based airline analyst for said he recognizes the sensitivities to the 9/11 families. But he said the ban on some items, like small scissors, was too overreaching.

Security officials, he said, must draw the line somewhere when defining dangerous weapons. Trippler, however, suggested that some proposals go too far.

I would like for someone from the TSA to explain why anybody needs an ice pick aboard a plane, he said. I know the flight attendants serve a lot of ice with the Diet Pepsis, but is it that much?

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

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