The Transportation Security Administration's proposal last month to ease restrictions on items that passengers can bring on board airplanes met immediate opposition from some lawmakers, a major airport executive, and members of the flight attendants' unions.
The changes, which were scheduled to take effect as this issue went to press December 22, allow airline passengers to take small scissors and screwdrivers on airplanes. In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee on December 12, Kip Hawley, assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said it was prudent to again allow these items on board airplanes so TSA screeners can focus on larger threats, including bombs.
“Shifting attention from low security risks to address markedly higher security risks is a plus, not a minus, to security,” Hawley said. “Keeping small tools and small scissors on the prohibited items list might make people feel better, but it will not improve security or measurably reduce the risk that a terrorist will gain control of an airplane.”
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) disagrees. Markey, along with Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), introduced the “Leave All Blades Behind Act” in an attempt to prevent TSA from lifting the ban on scissors and other items the congressmen believe could be used as weapons on aircraft. New York Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer were supposed to co-sponsor companion Senate legislation.
Opposition to the TSA plan grew elsewhere, as well. The Boston Globe reported that Craig Coy, head of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Boston's Logan International Airport, sent a letter to the TSA charging that the changes send “the wrong message” to both terrorists and travelers.
Flight attendants also vigorously oppose TSA's proposal. During the December 12 hearing, Patricia Friend, head of the Association of Flight Attendants, testified with a pair of scissors and a screwdriver in her hands, telling senators that while she was questioned by Capitol Police upon arriving at the hearing, a terrorist could be allowed to bring the items on an airplane “without any justification.”