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Move to relax policy for carry-on baggage is smart
Want to take a little pocketknife on your next vacation? Soon, that won't be a problem.
The Transportation Security Administration is relaxing some of its strict carry-on luggage policies. Soon, passengers will be able to carry on a variety of currently forbidden items, such as small knives with blades that are less than 2.36 inches in length, small bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks and golf clubs.
The strict carry-on policies came about in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in which terrorists hijacked four passenger jets. Two of those planes were crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, while the third was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth crashed into a Pennsylvania field after its passengers tried to take back the plane.
The loss of life? Almost 3,000 people in all, between the passengers on the planes, the victims on the ground, and the 19 hijackers on the aircraft. The terrorists were armed quite simply – with box cutters.
The TSA says they plan on relaxing the policies to conform U.S. safety standards to international standards, which would then allow the TSA to concentrate its energies on more serious safety threats, according to a statement in an Associated Press story.
Experts note that any number of regular items can be turned into a weapon, if someone has the intent, such as a toothbrush being sharpened into a knife, which has happened in prisons. A couple of rolls of quarters swung about in a sock could just as easily seriously hurt someone, and toothbrushes, socks and quarters are all legitimate carry-on items.
And since 2005, the TSA has allowed passengers to carry on other sharp-ish items such as small scissors, matches and knitting needles.
Officials say that ultimately, they are looking at a bigger picture. “The focus in on what could present catastrophic damage to the aircraft,” said one TSA spokesman.
Flight attendants disagree with the changes, calling the new policy dangerous. A union for the group noted the pilot is behind a locked door in the cockpit, but the passengers and flight attendants would still be in danger in the cabin.
However, part of the reason the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers were successful is because they had surprise on their side. No one expected it, doors to the cockpits were not locked, and the hijackers coordinated the attacks to maximize the damage before the U.S. could react to mitigate it. For an attack on the scale of Sept. 11 to succeed again, it would likely come where we least expected.
And, the reality is, knitting needles alone could cause some serious harm to individuals, and they've been allowed in carry-on baggage since 2005.
What can't be controlled or prohibited by any agency is the intent to do harm. It's time for the TSA to relax some of the carry-on restrictions and put their focus on bigger dangers.