TSA

As TSA Stops Its No Knives Act, Ed Markey Introduces His Own

|

TSA

Last week I expressed the hope that I would be allowed to take my Leatherman Juice S2, which has a six-centimeter blade, onto airplanes after the Transportation Security Administration's new policy regarding prohibited items takes effect on April 25. But it turns out that the TSA's definition of blade (see illustration) includes the unsharpened metal beneath the edge, which would make the knife on my Leatherman one centimeter too long. (The width, by contrast, is well under the half-inch maximum.) But are TSA agents really going to be measuring knives? According to CBS News, the TSA "argues the change will speed up security lines." Not if it requires agents to break out their rulers and invites disputes about exactly how long and wide a knife blade is.

Flight attendants and pilots have a different concern, noting that the newly permitted knives are just as dangerous as the still-forbidden box cutters. Members of Congress such as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) are worried too. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) plans to introduce a No Knives Act that would block the policy change. "On 9/11," he says, "we learned that in the confines of an airline cabin, even a small knife can lead to devastating consequences."

The critics have a point. The distinction between box cutters and pocket knives is emotional and aesthetic rather than logical or practical. Because the 9/11 hijackers happen to have used that particular implement, it is forever banned from airplane cabins, even though it is not really any more threatening than the tools that the TSA wants to allow. But TSA Administrator John Pistole argues that small knives do not pose much of a risk in light of reinforced cockpit doors and other post-9/11 security measures. He wants his agents to focus on potentially catastrophic threats—"primarily nonmetallic explosive devices, the bombs that can bring down an aircraft"—rather than confiscating pocket tools.

Enforcing the restrictions on knife length and width, of course, could be pretty distracting too, depending on how persnickety the TSA is. The TSA is perfectly capable of combining persnicketiness with ineptitude: Although I have lost several pocket knives over the years because I forgot to leave them at home or put them in checked baggage, I have also accidentally carried them onto airplanes without anyone noticing, so the ban on knives clearly never meant that airplane cabins were knife-free zones. Furthermore, Pistole's fear of nonmetallic explosives is the rationale for confiscating water bottles and otherwise policing liquids and gels, which has to rank high in terms of inconvenience and pointlessness.

Pistole nevertheless deserves credit for his willingness to revisit policies that never made much sense, thereby risking the wrath of alarmist micromanagers like Schumer and Markey. Maybe one day we will even be able to keep our shoes on at the airport.

[Thanks to Robert Woolley for the tip.]

Advertisement

NEXT: Sen. Feinstein Didn't Like Sen. Cruz's Questions About the Bill of Rights

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Anyone care to remind me why we have to take our shoes off before boarding a plane again?

    1. Richard Reid

      1. The “shoe bomber” right? As I recall, he failed miserably. As did the “underwear bomber” as well. I haven’t flown in a couple of years, does the TSA require people to remove their underwear for inspection as well?

        1. does the TSA require people to remove their underwear for inspection as well?

          If they did, I wouldn’t change my undies or shower for a couple of days before flying.

          We have to take off our shoes because some retard failed to blow up an airplane with a shoe bomb and the TSA is a reactionary agency that couldn’t keep the flying public safe if they had Superman on their payroll.

          1. There’s so much to love about this post.

            You could always tell them that you’re flying to Japan and you plan to make a pretty penny on those undies. Nothing personal, Ms. TSA Chick.

  2. Is the TSA capable of NOT combining persnickityness with ineptitude?

    I measured my standard-size Swiss Army Knife, a Victorinox, probably one of the most common pocket knives in the world. The sharp edge is just shy of 6mm. But with the small base, it exceeds that length.

    I suspect that, given that 6mm is some common international standard (apparently), the Victorinox was used as a model — but that the standard is for the sharpened part of the blade. So even with something so simple, the TSA can’t get it right.

    1. “The sharp edge is just shy of 6mm.”

      I have butter knives sharper than that

      1. Hey now! As long as it is never used, a Victorinox holds a pretty sharp edge!

      2. I keep mine sharpened. It’s not as good as some of my other knives, but a hell of a lot more useful on a bottle or a phillips screw.

  3. No, what we learned on 911 was not to let some guys with small knives take over an airplane.

    1. “That’s not a knife. THIS is a knife.” Crocodile Dundee

  4. The distinction between box cutters and pocket knives TSA is emotional and aesthetic rather than logical or practical.

    ftfy

    1. It’s also very expensive, with enormous indirect costs as well.

  5. I wish Schumer was as much a bed-wetter when it came to a real threat: the deficit spending of the federal government. So, O.K., a terrorist could slit a throat or two before being beaten to death by the other passengers. But why try? Same terrorist could take out X times more people in the airport with more lethal weapons any place before reaching the metal detectors.

    1. ^This. Why do they still think the terrorists are obsessed with airplanes? That tactic worked once, and not even for a full day after the passengers on the last plane realized what was happening. They know that this is what is being ‘protected’ against, so why not move on to a new, softer target? Like trains, or malls, or yes, the airport before you get to the metal detectors.

      1. Why do we think they’re obsessed with transportation at all? I mean, maybe there’d be an attack at some place like, oh, I don’t know, a military installation in Texas or whatever.

        And BTW how in hell can we call a place where some lone asshole can walk up and shoot 43 military officers a “fort”?

        1. Most were enlisted, not officers.

  6. I’ve had a corkscrew with one of those pathetic little knife on it confiscated before. At least I can carry those around again!

  7. And yet we still have to take off our fucking shoes.

  8. The pantswetting will never end because pantswetting is an excuse for restrictive policies that separate our political overloads from the peons. Note from the likes of whom such pantswetting is coming: scum like Schumer.

    As always: CONTROL.

  9. 9/11 will never happen again because any attempt will end up like Flight 93. What is it we’re actually trying to prevent here that couldn’t occur in any bus or train?

  10. But it turns out that the TSA’s definition of blade (see illustration) includes the unsharpened metal beneath the edge, which would make the knife on my Leatherman one centimeter too long. (

    I pointed this out the very day you reported the TSA’s announcement.

  11. includes the unsharpened metal beneath the edge, which would make the knife on my Leatherman one centimeter too long.

    Told you. If you really believe that the average TSA agent is going to make distinctions between the sharpened part of the blade and the base, you’re mistaken. It’s going to be all the metal that shows above the hinge or hilt.

  12. “we learned that in the confines of an airline cabin, even a small knife can lead to devastating consequences.”

    He’s technically correct. When you stick a large number of unarmed, law-abiding people in a confined space, the one who gets the weapon of any kind through is king…

    You know where I’m going with this, right?

    1. Ban all sharp or heavy, blunt objects?

      1. The plane itself, for example, should be banned as heavy, blunt and sharp, all at the same time. Not only that, it’s loaded down with incendiary chemicals, and it’s even capable of autonomously flying to a specified target and impact at hundreds of miles per hour.

        Ban the plane, and all the piddling stuff is irrelevant.

    2. Box-cutters for everyone!

    3. If you team up with other unarmed passengers to defeat a terrorist, you’re forming a government?

      1. Nope. It would be a militia.

    4. Ban law-abiding people from boarding aircraft?

  13. I cannot believe that I am saying this, but three cheers for TSA on this one. Yes, the restrictions are still stupid, but they are finally showing a glimmer of sense. The twin weaknesses that allowed 9-11 to happen were (1) the FAA policy directing the crew to let the hijackers have their way with the plane (with public acceptance that the worst that could happen was that they would get diverted to Cuba) and (2) not having doors on the cockpits. Now, you could not highjack a plane with Crocodile Dundee’s knife. The only real threat to aircraft is when the terrorist get some good old stinger-like missles from Libya or Syria, and smuggle them into the United States. Not sure how TSA will harrass after that happens, but in the meantime lets celebrate the glimmer of sense.

  14. Ed Markey, a tireless crusader against clean, abundant, affordable nuclear energy, is a great villain of the environment. In a just world, children would pee on him and passersby cuff him about the ear.

  15. According to the account of the new policy I saw, it only permits knives whose short blades don’t lock. I don’t know if that bans your leatherman, but it does ban the very small pocket knife I routinely carry and, I suspect, a large fraction of very small pocket knives.

  16. Flight attendants and pilots have a different concern, noting that the newly permitted knives are just as dangerous as the still-forbidden box cutters.

    But box cutters have no sporting use, so they are Assault Knives.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.