TSA to Allow Sharp Objects on Airplanes
The Transportation Security Administration is expected to announce a lifting on the ban of such objects as scissors and cigarette lighters from airplanes, allowing its screeners to focus on explosives and other more dangerous items.
TSA Would Allow Sharp Objects on Airliners (WaPo, A1)
A new plan by the Transportation Security Administration would allow airline passengers to bring scissors and other sharp objects in their carry-on bags because the items no longer pose the greatest threat to airline security, according to sources familiar with the plans.
In a series of briefings this week, TSA Director Edmund S. “Kip” Hawley told aviation industry leaders that he plans to announce changes at airport security checkpoints that would allow scissors less than four inches long and tools, such as screwdrivers, less than seven inches long, according to people familiar with the TSA’s plans. These people spoke on condition of anonymity because the TSA intends to make the plans public Friday.
The TSA’s internal studies show that carry-on-item screeners spend half of their screening time searching for cigarette lighters, a recently banned item, and that they open 1 out of every 4 bags to remove a pair of scissors, according to sources briefed by the agency. Officials believe that other security measures now in place, such as hardened cockpit doors, would prevent a terrorist from commandeering an aircraft with box cutters or scissors.
The TSA has been reviewing its list of prohibited items since last summer and has debated whether throwing stars (a martial-arts weapon), ice picks and knives should be allowed back on board, according to TSA documents. In past briefings with reporters, Hawley said the agency was considering other changes that would make the airline security system less predictable. For example, he said that he was unsure whether it makes sense for passengers to routinely remove their shoes at the security checkpoint. He said he also plans to incorporate more bomb-sniffing dogs in airports.
Confiscating scissors and other grooming implements is definitely silly. Still, I can think of no reason that a passenger would need to carry throwing stars and screwdrivers aboard a commercial airliner.
Indeed, if the object of the exercise is to make screening faster and less intrusive, the obvious solution would be to further limit the number of bags passengers are allowed to carry on. This would not only speed security checks but boarding and deplaning as well. Of course, for that to be palatable, airlines would need to figure out how to get checked bags back to passengers more efficiently–preferably without losing them.
Update: Kevin Drum is right about the “histrionic fearmongering” by the flight attendants’ union in the article.