As noted at Reason 24/7, flight attendants have got their panties, boxers and boxer-briefs in a bunch over the Transportation Security Administration's decision to let Americans, once again, carry small pocket knives onto airplanes. It's hard to imagine an organization taking on a more useless, fearmongering role than the TSA, but the Association of Flight Attendants has met the bar. This is especially annoying for those of us who can remember a time when you could actually board a plane with useful tools without inspiring fear in flight attendants and fellow passengers — a situation that should prevail once again, especially since we've already implemented the two changes that make a difference in airplane security: hardening cockpit doors and making passengers and crew aware that they have to take an active role.
I remember flying from Boston to Philadelphia, in the early 1990s, to buy a motorcycle that a friend of a friend was selling cheap. I had a one-way ticket and a carry-on bag with a helmet, a change of clothes and a bunch of tools to make sure the bike was tuned for the ride back to Boston. I had long hair and wore boots and a leather jacket. At the security line at Logan, a guard x-rayed my bag, then cocked an eye at me in what I understood as the universal symbol for, "what the fuck?" I explained the situation and we talked bikes for a minute before the passengers behind me started complaining (something you could do then without fear of being anally probed by federal employees). Then I went on my way. I remember that the flight attendants managed to seat me and take my drink order without dissolving into panic.
Flash forward to today, when the Association of Flight Attendants writes on its site:
The TSA was created because blades on airplanes were used to cause this deadly attack on U.S. soil.
There's no excuse for reversal on the policy to ban knives from the aircraft cabin. Multi-layered security, including prohibition of items that could pose a threat, ensures U.S. aviation is the safest in the world. The ban on dangerous objects is an integral layer in aviation security.
Flight Attendants serve as the last line of defense in aviation security—responsible for ensuring the safety, health and security of the passengers in our care. Join us in keeping our aircraft cabin safe. TELL THE TSA TO KEEP KNIVES OUT OF THE CABIN.
Pppphhht. And I mean that. What crap.
The TSA is a useless jobs program that was created to make us all feel that the government was doing something to protect us from nasty terrorists who, frankly, got away with the horror of 9/11 because people didn't understand that their hijackers weren't the old-fashioned, take-me-to Cuba variety. Once they learned what was intended, the passengers of Flight 93 prevented their plane from being used as a weapon, though at the loss of their own lives since the hijackers had already seized control. Subsequent hijacking attempts have been deterred, again and again, by passengers who have overpowered and, sometimes, killed would-be assailants. Times have changed because people now understand that they can't be passive.
As mentioned above, even frequent air security antagonists Bruce Schneier and Kip Hawley agree that two security measures have really made a difference since 2001, and those measures were implemented years ago, involving passenger attitude and cockpit doors. They are not threatened, in any way, by the TSA allowing passengers to board with "[s]mall knives with non-locking blades smaller than 2.36 inches and less than 1/2 inch in width."
I hesitate to point this out for fear of sending the flight attendants' association into an organizational panic, but the same TSA notice allowing for small knives also allows novelty bats, pool cues and golf clubs.
Honestly, in a bar fight, I'm reaching for the pool cue, not my Leatherman micra.
Long permitted, without apparent mayhem resulting, are seven-inch screwdivers and knitting needles. But itty-bitty pocket knives, we're told, will be the doom of us all. I'm holding out for straight razors. I hate keeping a bag of disposables in the bathroom cabinet just for use on business trips.