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March 19, 2013 > Opposition to TSA knife proposal

Opposition to TSA knife proposal

Submitted By Allison Bormel

U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) questioned Transportation Security Agency (TSA) Administrator John Pistole in a hearing of the Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee on March 14, 2013. Swalwell objected to TSA's new policy to allow certain knives and sports equipment on-board planes, arguing it could put passengers and crew at serious risk.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when hijackers overtook planes using mace, box cutters and knives, all knives and dangerous sporting equipment were placed on a list of prohibited items and banned from planes. TSA's most recent decision will change the prohibited items list by allowing passengers to bring small knives with non-locking blades smaller than 2.36 inches and less than .5 inches in width, and sporting equipment like hockey sticks onto plane cabins.

"Since September 12, 2001, there have been zero planes hijacked by terrorists using sharp objects. That number cannot get better but it can get worse with this new policy," said Swalwell. "After questioning TSA Administrator Pistole at the Homeland Security Committee hearing, I am still concerned that this policy endangers passengers and crew, was made without formal consultation with stakeholder groups like flight attendants, pilots and transportation security officers and will only make the security process lengthier and more cumbersome."

Swalwell is leading a letter of Members of Congress to TSA opposing this decision and asking it be withdrawn until TSA engages in meaningful consultation with interested stakeholders. The policy has been criticized by the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, Federal Flight Deck Officer Association and the National Association of Police Organizations.

"I appreciated the opportunity to engage with Administrator Pistole and I hope he takes into account serious concerns brought by stakeholder groups. Old threats do not just disappear when new threats arise and we should not proceed with policies that will put Americans at risk," added Swalwell.

The following day, U.S. Representatives Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Benny G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, announced that a bipartisan coalition of 50 Members of Congress had signed on to their letter to the TSA expressing serious concerns about the agency's new policy which is set to take effect on April 25, 2013.

"The support for our letter objecting to TSA's decision by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle validates the general consensus that this is a foolish policy that could, in a worst-case scenario, seriously harm Americans," said Swalwell. "Based on my conversation with Administrator Pistole, yesterday, at the Homeland Security Committee hearing, I am more convinced that TSA should not implement this policy."

The letter is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, the Federal Flight Deck Officer Association and the National Association of Police Organizations.

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