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As change in TSA policy nears, knife fight remains a hot issue

April 15, 2013|By Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • The Transportation Security Administration issued these guidelines in March to show which knives will and won't be allowed on planes starting April 25.
The Transportation Security Administration issued these guidelines… (Transportation Security…)

In just 10 days you'll be able to carry knives onto planes. Not big butcher knives, of course, but those described as smaller than 2.36 inches long and less than half an inch in width.

That relaxing of Transportation Security Administration rules in March also includes allowing passengers to carry on certain items, including ski poles, hockey sticks, golf clubs, etc. 

But it's the knives that have created the strongest reaction, including one from U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Los Angeles). Pilots and flight attendants as well as members of Congress have objected strenuously, and some have asked the TSA to reconsider and keep small knives on the prohibited list.

In March, California U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) wrote a letter to TSA head John Pistole to oppose the policy change. More than 100 members of Congress signed on to the letter. Pistole replied explaining why the decision was made, noting that explosive devices seemed to be the weapon of choice for terrorists, not knives.

Hahn, one of the signatories on Swalwell's letter, last week wrote another letter, this time to Pistole's boss, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Hahn asked Napolitano to "reverse the administrator's decision and override this foolhardy and dangerous policy regarding knives."

In response to the agency's stance that TSA staff would be better able to focus on explosive devices that could take down an aircraft, Hahn agreed with the need to strengthen efforts to ensure bombs aren't taken onto planes. But she also wrote: "I cannot believe that forcing TSA agents to measure knives in the security line will in any way improve their focus." She said the policy change would burden TSA agents and allow deadly weapons back on planes.

The TSA isn't backing down. On Friday a spokesman asked about Hahn's letter responded via email: "TSA plans to implement its announced changes to the Prohibited Items List on April 25."

Opponents of the charge aren't backing down either. The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions has been taking its fight to passengers in airports around the country to enlist their support. The group plans to distribute leaflets on Monday at Miami International Airport.

mary.forgione@latimes.com

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