You Can Fly With Them, but You Still Shouldn't Run With Them


Under the Transportation Security Administration's new screening policy, I can legally carry most of my Leatherman pocket tool onto an airplane: The scissors, the screwdrivers, the nail file, and the tweezers are all OK, but the two-inch blade is still forbidden. I'm not sure I understand the logic of that distinction, since even very sharp scissors up to four inches long are now permitted. But so far, on those occasions when I've forgotten to leave the tool at home, I haven't had any trouble sneaking it past the screeners by the very tricky maneuver of dropping it into my carry-on bag.

The more lenient rules regarding carry-on items are supposed to free up screeners to do more "secondary searches." According to The New York Times,

Passengers are now typically subject to a more intensive, so-called secondary search only if their names match a listing of suspected terrorists or because of anomalies like a last-minute ticket purchase or a one-way trip with no baggage.

The new strategy, which has been tested in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Orange County, Calif., will mean that a certain number of passengers, even if they are not identified by these computerized checks, will be pulled aside and subject to an added search lasting about two minutes. Officials said passengers would be selected randomly, without regard to ethnicity or nationality.

So am I to understand that until now I've been selected for wandings and pat-downs based on my name or something suspicious about my behavior? And when they've scrutinized my whole family, including my 2-year-old daughter, that was because there was something terroristy about us? I had been under the impression that those occasional black marks on my boarding passes were random. Now that the TSA is officially doing random searches, does that mean I'll be pulled aside more often or less?

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  1. What is even more ridiculous is the hysteria at the change:

    “The Bush administration proposal is just asking the next Mohamed Atta to move from box cutters to scissors as the weapon that’s used in the passenger cabin of planes,” Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts

    “The families are outraged that the TSA is planning on letting weapons back on board,” Justin Green, an attorney for the families of three flight attendants who died aboard American Airlines Flight 11.

    Um, guys, I hardly think that passengers are going to be intimidated by a bunch of terrorists with scissors, considering the possible alternatives.

  2. Will the TSA guys still insist on going through every item in our luggage, including my wife’s underwear, in front of the entire airport?

  3. If they could just somehow make the cockpit door scissor-proof. Can technology save us here?

  4. Jacob Sullum-Your first name is vaguely jewish-sounding. Most jews are, to some extent, semetic, and can trace their roots to the Middle East. Terrorists come from the Middle East. You are a suspected terrorist. QED.

    Hey, it makes as much sense as anyting those bozos do. My favorite was having my bag dump searched specifically because I was a military person travelling on military orders. Of course, that made me a threat. You see, military people often wear cammies. Militia members in the US often wear cammies. Al-Sadr called his jihadists a militia. Therefore, I am a suspected terrorist. QED.

  5. Jacob,

    Did you ever suspect that the TSA is shaking you down in an attempt to find drugs? You are known as a crusader for drug decriminalization, so the government may have your name flagged with the TSA. I would not put it past the fuckers.

  6. What a lot of people seem to forget is that the reason that terrorists could take over flights with wussy little weapons like box cutters (or scissors) is that prior to 9/11 the common sense response to a hijack was to cooperate with the hijackers.

    Most hijacked passengers got out fine in the end, before the hijeckers started using the plane as a weapon. Now that people have the idea that hijackers want the plane and not the hostages, things are different. They would need weapons that could pacify dozens of angry people afraid for their lives.

  7. CNN says:
    Passengers also can expect more randomness at security gates so would-be terrorists won’t know for sure what they will see.

    So the government has decided to act in an arbitrary and capricious manner and that is going to confuse the hell out of the terrorists? How come nobody has thought of this plan before?

  8. [light mood] extra prayer can seal the cockpit doors. it’s science, after all. [/]

  9. TomHynes-They have thought of that. It’s called RAMS (random anti-terrorist measures) and is SOP and most secure government facilities. Of course, that has no bearing on whether it makes sense to do the same at airports.

  10. “anomalies like a last-minute ticket purchase”

    I love it! So if you’re in a hurry, you’re more likely to get searched? Brilliant!

  11. I can just see the drill instructors at the Osama ben Laden Terrorist Educational Facility. (OLTEF)

    “Listen up, people! Today we are training with scissors!”

  12. “The families are outraged that the TSA is planning on letting weapons back on board”

    Deadly “weapons” like a pair of nail scissors? If that’s a weapon, anything is a weapon. I’m outraged that I have to dance to the tune set by the families of dead flight attendants, but unfortunately I don’t seem to have a congressman to speak for me. I’m curious: what does El Al do? I’d bet they don’t give a damn about scissors.

  13. “anomalies like a last-minute ticket purchase”

    I love it! So if you’re in a hurry, you’re more likely to get searched? Brilliant!

    Come to think of it, how much sense would it make for a terrorist to wait until the last minute to buy a ticket? I can just see the cell leader getting a call: “What do you mean you can’t get a ticket? We’ve planning this for five years and the fucking flight is sold out?! Can’t you get on standby or something?”

  14. Well, the one time I forgot to pull my leatherman out of my carry on at Long Beach Airport (Jetblue hub) the screener picket it out (through my bag incredibly packed with electronic bric-a-brac.) So not every screener is brain dead.

  15. All the comments by talking heads have made me wonder: does anyone actually know what the terrorists used? I thought box cutters were just a hypothesis.

  16. what if they attack you with a banana?

  17. And when they’ve scrutinized my whole family, including my 2-year-old daughter,

    Makes sense to me. Every two-year-old I’ve known was indeed a holy terror.

  18. Good question. I have also heard about aerosol cans of something or other. There was that US kid in 2002 or so who was arrested for either smuggling and/or planting objects that matched what he felt had been pre-planted in the planes.

    Was anything pre-planted for 9/11? If so, were any non-hi-jackers involved?

  19. Was anything pre-planted for 9/11? If so, were any non-hi-jackers involved?

    Good question! I’ll torture somebody and get back to you once I’ve got answers.

  20. Of course. You see, I KNEW this was going to happen. How? Because the manicure scissors I have flown around the country with for the last 4 years were taken from me by force by a nasty TSA agent but days ago.

    Or was it I who was nasty?…hmmm…may have been.

  21. The last time I flew before 9/11, I had, as usual, taken my Leatherman off with my belt and stuck it in my carry-on bag. The screener that time said, “Wait, what’s that? That’s a Leatherman, right? Ok.” Since then I’ve assumed that it’d already been noticed many times, before anyone cared. So I always made sure to have checked luggage just so I could bring the damn thing. Now you’re saying that was a fluke and I could’ve just kept at it, huh?

    Maybe I’ll start putting it in my carry-on again. If they take it, it’s an excuse to treat myself to a newer model and talk shit about the Man at the same time..

  22. Like the terrorists will buy a 1-way ticket.

    Terrorists are good at acting normal, Richard Reid aside. Profiling based on oddness makes zero sense.

  23. I have a suggestion, let those of us licensed for concealed carry of a firearm carry on all flights! Vet us before we get on the flight.


    Just let TSA put all air passengers in blue jump suits.

    So, question, with the new rules will they finally stop making us take our shoes off as we pass thru screening? That is the dumbest things I have ever seen.

    The Hobo

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