Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) urged Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to reverse a decision by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that allows travelers to carry small retractable blade knives on airplanes. Senator Gillibrand stressed that threats posed by these small knives should not be ignored, noting the fact that airlines and airports have been prime terrorist targets since the September 11th attack, with the most recent threat coming only last year.
"I am deeply concerned this decision could put the safety of passengers and flight attendants at risk," said Senator Gillibrand. "Allowing potentially dangerous weapons anywhere near a plane simply does not make sense. As we've repeatedly seen, New York is the number one target for terrorists around the world who want to harm Americans. We must remain vigilant in guarding against attacks and protect New York and our nation."
Senator Gillibrand wrote in a letter to Secretary Napolitano, "I am deeply disturbed by this announcement and concerned for the safety of all Americans who travel via commercial aircraft, and request a reconsideration of this policy change to better protect American travelers The safety and security of American travelers should be the top priority for TSA, and keeping the ban on pocketknives is imperative to maintaining that safety."
The new guidelines, set to take effect on April 25th, would allow travelers to bring small retractable blade knives, golf clubs, hockey sticks and other sports equipment on planes. These small knives would be permitted on planes for the first time since September 11th. Under the new regulations, knives must be able to fold up and have blades that are less than 1/2-inch wide and 2.36 inches or less in length.
Senator Gillibrand pointed out that given the recent reported failure of TSA agents to identify an undercover agent's hidden bomb at Newark Airport, the TSA should focus on remaining vigilant rather than modifying security standards and lifting the ban on pocketknives.
Full text of Senator Gillibrand's letter is below:
Dear Secretary Napolitano,
I write to you today regarding the recent decision by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to allow passengers to carry small pocketknives onto commercial airplanes. I am deeply disturbed by this announcement and concerned for the safety of all Americans who travel via commercial aircraft, and request a reconsideration of this policy change to better protect American travelers.
Our airlines and airports have been prime terrorist targets since September 11, 2001, with the most recent threat coming only last year. Allowing pocketknives, whether small and retractable, or otherwise, presents a threat to passenger and crew safety. While I understand the stated desire to focus resources on other threats, I do not believe the threats posed by small knives should be ignored. As for complying with international rules, it should be noted that several of the more notorious attempts were made on U.S. airliners flying to the U.S. from overseas locations, including the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight on its way to Detroit from Amsterdam in December 2009. Instead of modifying our security standards, we should remain vigilant. My concern is underscored by the recently reported failure of TSA agents at the Newark Liberty International Airport to find a bomb hidden in the pants of an undercover agent.
The safety and security of American travelers should be the top priority for TSA, and keeping the ban on pocketknives is imperative to maintaining that safety. Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to your prompt response.