On Thursday, Transportation Security Administration Chief John Pistole went before lawmakers on Thursday and re-confirmed the agency’s decision to allow some knives and other items on airplanes for the first time since they were banned following the 9/11 terror attacks.
“I think the decision is solid and it stands and we plan to move forward,” Pistole testified before the House Homeland Security Committee, The Associated Press reported. It’s unlikely in these days of hardened cockpit doors and other preventative measures that the small folding knives could be used by terrorists to take over a plane, Pistole said.
On March 5, TSA announced that some knives under two and a half inches and some previously banned sports equipment, including hockey sticks, will be allowed back on airplanes.
TSA says the change to the prohibited items list is “part of an overall risk-based security approach” allowing employees to better focus on “finding higher threat items such as explosives.”
But groups representing airline industry workers, including many flight attendants, pilots, TSA officers and federal air marshals, have come out against what they characterizes as a dangerous and “ill-advised” move.
This will “put law enforcement officers and the flying public at greater risk,” said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
Several members of the House committee share those concerns and urged Pistole to reconsider his position, AP reported.
The Teamsters, as well as the United Steelworkers and some passengers rights groups have also stated their opposition to the new TSA rules and executives at American Airlines, US Airways and Delta Air Lines have written letters directly to the TSA chief.
“We object to the agency decision to allow small knives back in the airplane cabin,” Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive officer, wrote in a letter dated March 8th. In a letter dated March 12, American Airlines senior vice president William Ris encouraged TSA “to reassess its proposed revisions to the prohibited items list.”
Southwest Airlines “is engaged with TSA in discussions,” said spokesman Chris Mainz. United has also expressed concerns to the TSA about the policy, but on Thursday a spokesperson declined to offer specifics.
The airline trade group Airlines for America was originally in support of TSA’s approach to “combining its vast experience with billions of passenger screenings with thorough risk-based assessments,” but it has softened its stance.
“We believe additional discussion is warranted before items that have been banned for more than 11 years are allowed back on aircraft,” said A4A spokeswoman Katie Connell.
A petition asking the White House to stop the TSA changes now has over 30,000 signatures. Earlier this week, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation with Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) aimed at blocking the changes as well.
(My story about pushback to the TSA plan to allow knives back on airplanes first appeared on NBC NEWS.com)