Home / Reagan’s FAA Security Chief Blasts Plan To Allow Small Knives On Planes

Reagan’s FAA Security Chief Blasts Plan To Allow Small Knives On Planes

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A former Federal Aviation Administration security director is the latest expert to blast a federal proposal to allow passengers once again to take small knives and other sharp objects aboard commercial flights.

“Somebody over at TSA (Transportation Security Administration) is out of their mind. I can’t put it any more clearly than that,” Billie Vincent, FAA security chief from 1982 to 1986 and now an aviation security consultant, told the New York Post.

It’s nice to see someone in the aviation industry recognizes the stupidity of this proposal.


JABBS first wrote about the proposal in August, shortly after it was made to the TSA head, Edmund “Kip” Hawley. The proposal would end the ban on knives less than five inches long, scissors, razor blades, ice picks, throwing stars and bows and arrows. Those items were banned by the TSA in 2002 as part of a broader effort to make air travel (at least appear) safer following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

On Nov. 4, Hawley told the House Homeland Security subcommittee on economic security that the proposal was being considered as part of a broader effort to reduce security delays. A decision will be made by January, he said.

Of course, reducing security delays doesn’t quite mesh with the Bush Administration mantra that they will do “everything we can” to make the homeland safer.

Some have suggested that the real reason the proposal is being considered is because the Republican-led Congress has reduced the budget for TSA screeners. Given that, some security experts have suggested that the reduced screener workforce should focus on sniffing out suicide bombers rather than targeting knife-carriers.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather wait in line for an extra few minutes — as has been the case since the 2001 terrorist attacks — than risk having a knife-carrier among the passengers.

The nation’s flight attendants agree. Sharp objects “could definitely lead to the deaths of flight attendants and passengers,” Patricia A. Friend, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said in a letter to Hawley shortly after the proposal was made.


This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.

Edited: nd

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About David R. Mark

  • Delphius

    There are plenty of objects that can be taken on a plane that can be used to stab and maim another passenger or member of the flight crew. Even a simple metal pen can easily be jammed through someones neck, were someone inclined to do so.

    The truth is, the prohibition on sharp pointy things was just another knee-jerk post 9/11 reaction. The hijackers weren’t able to cause the damage they did because they were able to smuggle box cutters onto the plane: The problem was that it was that ridiculously easy to get access to the cockpit. A problem which has since been addressed.

    When we consider airport security, we have to consider the level of threat and risk and react accordingly:

    The first priority should be to prevent the airplane from being used as a weapon that can be used to kill thousands of people. That has already been pretty effectively addressed by reinforcing the cockpit.

    The second priority should be threats against the plane as a whole, and by extension all of the passengers on board. Threats such as bombs and explosives which could take out the plane and everyone on board.

    The very lowest tier threat is that of physical violence against individual passengers. Not that this level of threat should not be taken seriously, but it needs to be recognized for what it is. A lower level threat.

    I’d much rather get over the security paranoia pushed on us by this administration, and get back to living life normally. If that means pocket knifes on planes and *gasp* metal silverware, I’m all for it.

    I for one am glad that I won’t have to leave my tools at home simply because I’m going on a plane. It will be nice to not have to stab an uncooperative product package with a pen when I’m on a trip somewhere, because I was prohibited from bringing along the proper tool for the job.

    Re: Racial profiling.

    The problem with this, is that it simply doesn’t work. All racial profiling does it open up readily identifiable holes in your security program. The terrorist will know that all they need to do is recruit people that don’t look the part, and then will have free rein to do what they wish.

    Take a few minutes on Google, and start looking up pictures of the peoples in various Muslim countries.

    Indonesia is the worlds most populous Muslim-majority country, the inhabitants of which look decidedly Asian. The people who carried out the Bali bombings wouldn’t have looked middle-eastern.

    Chechnya is a Muslim region of the Russian Federation, and Chechnyans have been responsible for a number of bombings in Russia as part of their struggle for independence. Most Chechnyans appear “white”, particularly Eastern European.

    Then of course there are the numerous known terrorist who do not fit racial profiles. Richard Reid looked middle-eastern, but had an English name and British citizenship. Jose Padilla, the alleged “dirty bomber”. John Walker Lynd, the “American Taliban”. David Hicks, the “Australian Taliban”. Etcetera and so forth.

    Perhaps most importantly, racial profiling involves a huge amount of false positives. Airport screeners generally aren’t capable of telling apart one “brown person” from another. Indian Hindus are frequently mistaken as Arab, and a number of Indian Sikhs were assaulted after 9/11 because they wore turbans. There are a heck of alot more Indians in the world than Arabs, and more importantly alot more Indians in the United States. That is alot of false positives gunking up the system, not to mention alot of innocent people who you are treating unfairly.

    So no, racial profiling doesn’t work. Even if one is not opposed to it from an ethical perspective, one should oppose it because it is an ineffective and useless policy that is a poor excuse for security.

  • Leonidas

    On September 11th 2001 the attackers were able to subdue their hostages with carpet cutters because the passengers knew that if they complied they would most likely be OK. That was the way it had always worked before.

    It didn’t work out that way that day.

    If everyone who boards has a knife, or if even just every able bodied male has a knife, then hijackers armed with knives will not be able to succcessfully hijack the aircraft. Passengers would most likely fight them with bare hands, because they would have the knowledge that if they didn’t they would die. If the passengers were armed they could more rapidly and readily subdue the hijackers, thus lessening the loss of decent lives.

    This really hinges on one question though. Why do you have so little respect and care for others that you want them disarmed so that they can be more readily killed? Hijackers don’t obey the law, they will have weapons regardless of your feel good BS laws. You only seek to disarm the law abiding. Why?

  • I keep telling you guys…it’s not virgins..it’s Virginians…that’s why I moved here…I’m right in line behind guys like Thomas Jefferson to kick their asses when they die!

  • Beethoven

    It’s easy.. Arm the airplane’s walls with pig-gut spraying devices, and, in the event of a crash, ground up pig parts and liberally dispersed throughout the plane.

    That way, in the event of a terrorist hijacking with intent to bomb – the stupid ass cameljockey will have no virgins to look forward to in muslim heaven, but rather, the exact opposite. That will remove all desire for them to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

  • Prior to 9/11, I carried an Emerson CQC-7B (icky, scary knife) on at least one round-trip flight per week for the previous four years. Useful tool for me, never caused an issue to anyone else. The reason? Knives in and of themselves aren’t the problem — it’s the intent of the user.

    If I were so inclined, I could cause all kinds of trouble with the things TSA does allow, like knitting needles. There’s no payoff to anyone in keeping me knife-free.

    Profile the passengers, don’t act like sheep about useful tools.

  • Falcon66

    I wont be happy till we can all carry machine guns. This country and it’s citizens will never be truly safe till we can be armed all the time. Cops do not protect, they file reports. Anyone who thinks giving peace a chance works with sociopaths, deserves to die in an airplne hijacking as they are dumbing down the gene pool.

  • lumpy

    Earlier on some fool said that even if they were armed passengers would be hesitant to act against hijackers. Last I checked about 20 percent of the male population have military training, so on a typical domestic flight that should mean enough people to overpower 3 or 4 hijackers if the passengers are armed.

  • Supernaut

    As has been mentioned above, the hijackers/bombers/terrorists intend to threaten and kill people. They will find a way to do so, if it means paying off or infiltrating staff positions to hide weapons (of any sort, explosives/grenades, guns, knives, box cutters, or even prison-style shanks) or even improvising, finding something on the plane. With creativity some ‘loophole’ could be found and exploited, and some sort of hidden or improvised weapon could be carried aboard, made ready at ‘go time.’ All prohibiting passengers from carrying knives does is make sure that when the plane takes off only the people hell-bent on killing others for some ’cause’ or for ransom are the ones with any sort of weapon.

    I wouldn’t think it would take a lot of expertise to make a disabling wound with a pocketknife. Sure, we’ll assume that the evil-doer has trained. So have more than a few ordinary people, probably a lot of the ones that would think of carrying a knife in case of a terrorist attack. Even if the citizen is not trained, he’s still one more thing for the terrorist to deal with, while someone else could take the initiative and help subdue him. Also, a trained knife fighter would still be hard pressed to deal with three to five similarly armed assailants around him, much less a gauntlet. The terrorist wants them to die. They don’t want to. Someone will stop him. Even if one or two of the resistors are badly injured or perhaps even killed, it prevents the rest from coming to harm. I’m no martial arts expert, but I’d be willing to go toe-to-toe with someone if doing so might keep everyone else from dying.

    Besides, have we really deteriorated to the point where we can’t trust people with a pointy object? It’s not my ‘masculinity,’ it’s the idea that if a screw is loose or if I split my nail, if I have to open a package, cut some string, or the like, that I can handle the situation. It’s just another item in my pocket, like my hanky, my wallet, my keys, or my flashlight, it makes itself rather useful. Sure, being able to fix things is a ‘manly’ thing I suppose, but it beats sitting around waiting for some other man OR woman to show up with a tool and fix the problem. I don’t currently own an ‘anti-terrorist’ knife, they’re all pretty much string-cutters and toothpick makers with little toolboxes attached. I don’t fly by air much either. I just don’t see why we should let the killers be the only ones with sharp objects, just because they’re willing to disregard a little law in the commission of assault and murder.

  • TN.Frank

    Well, gee, it looks like pocket knives are still out but I can take a 4″ pair of sissors or a 7″ screw driver, like I carry those with me all the time. My Swiss Army Pocket knife is a “no no” according to the TSA but a frickin’ 7″ screw driver is ok. Where’s the F’N’ logic in that. But then who ever said that any government agency was logical.

  • markk

    the fact is the pocketknife i carry everywhere is LESS LETHAL than a ballpoint pen it is assinine and ineffective to disallow it or other such objects simply out of ignorance or for appearances sake

  • Jon

    So being helpless without a pocketknife constitutes manliness? Sounds more like impotence.

    No it means he is not a sheep willing to forfeit his rights to the state for perceived safety from the boogey man. The price of Freedom is eternal vigilance, not eternal government involvement in all aspects of our lives.

  • TN.Frank

    In a fight for your life ANYTHING that you can bring to bear to shift the odds in your favor can only help. All the men that I know carry a knife. Men use these tools everyday, day in and day out for a multitude of tasks. Hell, even a lot of women that I know carry a small knife for just such reasons. To quote Jim Bowie, “A man without
    a knife is a dead man.” The knife is one of mans most important tools and yes, it can be used as a weapon too but the point that I’m trying to make is that most MEN carry pocket knives because they do things in their daily lives that demand the use of a tool.

  • JR

    TN.Frank: I’ve carried a pocket knife since I was 5 years old, won’t go anywhere without one, never know when I’ll need to use one or the other tools on my Swiss Army Pocket knife and I feel helpless without it.Glad to see the TSA will allow us to equal the odds in a Hi-Jack situation and let men be men again by letting us have out knives back.

    So being helpless without a pocketknife constitutes manliness? Sounds more like impotence.

  • Jeff

    For those of you who think icky scary knives on airplanes are a problem:

    Imagine that you have two aircraft, plane A and plane B. They are identical in every way to include the passengers with one exception.

    Airplane A has all its passengers screened by the collection of sexual assault professionals from the TSA and have been mercifully relieved of they Congressional Medals of Honor, their nail clippers, and their GI Joe 2 inch long plastic M16 replicas.

    Airplane A hits cruising altitude, the seat belt sign goes off, and three young men stand up, pull out guns, and announce a hijacking. The three young men were able to do this because, are you ready for this?, they are criminals and they don’t obey the law. In fact, they went to great lengths to break it by infiltrating the cleaning and galley crews and having weapons placed on board for them.

    Luckily for the screened passengers they are unarmed. They can’t even make a desperation move because they will simply be cut down, and in any group of 100 people there will be on average about 3 brave men and maybe a brave woman. (see; On Killing and On Combat, two books by a man named Grossman)

    What are the chances that the people on Airplane A will die? 100% The Air Force will shoot them down.

    Airplane B though….Airplane B is identical to Airplane A in every way except that the people on Airplane B may carry pistols on board provided they have a CCW or they are from Vermont. The sole caveat is that they must carry airline approved ammunition that will not pierce bulkheads. The people must still go through a baggage screen, because bombs hurt our feelings, but other than that, nada.

    Our three stalwart young men stand up, announce the hijacking, and are quite unpleasantly surprised when every swinging Dick and Jane opens up on them.

    Now, is there a chance that everyone will die on that airplane? Sure, There is a chance of death every time you fly, walk the dog, or push too hard when you take a dump. Is it 100%? Nope, but even if the best you could hope for was a 99% chance of dying that is still better than 100%.

    No guns=100% chance of dying.

    Guns=A strong chance of surviving, a safer flight, and the people on board get to fly with their dignity intact.

    There isn’t a liberal out there who can refute that with logic, so bring on the emoting Teddy Kennedy fans!

  • Well it’s about frickin’ time. I’ve not flown since 9/11 because of this stupid probition on pocket knives, maybe now I can fly again. I’ve carried a pocket knife since I was 5 years old, won’t go anywhere without one, never know when I’ll need to use one or the other tools on my Swiss Army Pocket knife and I feel helpless without it. Also, as a general rule when I use to fly I’d take my Gerber Multi-Tool and a small Mini-Mag flash light with me “Just in case” of a plane crash. That Multi-Tool would come in real handy. Glad to see the TSA will allow us to equal the odds in a Hi-Jack situation and let men be men again by letting us have out knives back.

  • kinda reminds me of the all in the family episode where archie went on tv to talk about highjacking.

    his solution: arm the passengers.

  • JR

    Dave Nalle: Encourage the law abiding citizens to bring bigger knives and other weapons.

    Law abiding citizens are still at a disadvantage because they usually don’t have as much practice at killing people. In fact, all those idiots carrying weapons are easy pickings for bad guys who forgot to bring their own.

    If you’re going to try to arm the public, it might be a good idea to institute some kind of widespread self-defence training first. Like a universal draft, or something.

    Geez, look at how much trouble we’ve gotten into by letting just anybody breed; arming them all would be almost as bad.

  • I wish you were kidding, Dave. But I know you’re not.

  • >>And I still don’t see why this is either/or. Screen for bombs. Screen for knives. Why allow weapons on board an airplane? Didn’t the 9/11 hijackers subdue the passengers with box cutters and pocket knives? I’m sure that’s what Friend, of the Flight Attendants union, was thinking.<< So? Encourage the law abiding citizens to bring bigger knives and other weapons. Give them a chance to deal with the hijackers with both superior numbers and equal or better armament. It onlu makes sense. Dave

  • Have you seen pictures of Reid and Padilla? They surely would have made my list of suspicious looking people! But old ladies and Teddy Kennedy, well maybe Teddy should be screened, aren’t the problem!

    The thing is, 9-11 happened because travellers were always taught to sit back and let the hijackers get killed by the SWAT team. Now we know that doesn’t work. Once they found out on the fourth plane what actually was happening, the whole situation changed.

  • Dave Nalle

    I want to know when I will be able to carry a gun on a plane. I won’t feel safe flying until I’m packin’ iron.


  • Unfortunately, that’s against the law, Andy. Even President Bush has said so.

    The problem is that you can’t profile someone who looks “Muslim.” You could profile someone who looks Arab. But Arabs only make up a small portion of Muslims worldwide.

    Additionally, you would be missing a lot of potential bombers. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, wouldn’t have made the cut. Jose Padilla, the dirty bomber wannabe, wouldn’t have made the cut. Eric Rudolph, the nutcase who was behind the Atlanta Olympics bombing, wouldn’t have made the cut.

    It’s not so easy.

    And I still don’t see why this is either/or. Screen for bombs. Screen for knives. Why allow weapons on board an airplane? Didn’t the 9/11 hijackers subdue the passengers with box cutters and pocket knives? I’m sure that’s what Friend, of the Flight Attendants union, was thinking.

  • I just flew across the Atlantic on Luftanza Air. They have no bic lighter bans, they serve everyone food with real silverware, even in coach…that’s a metal knife and fork people…really!

    Taking away nail files and pocket knives does nothing to make an airplane safer. Knocking off the politically correct BS and screening muslims and people that look like muslims is the only thing that will make planes safer. Call it profiling if it makes you feel better, but that’s what needs to happen.