NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The head of the Transportation Safety Administration faced tough questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Thursday about his plan to allow some knives back on planes.
TSA Administrator John Pistole appeared late Thursday afternoon before the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security and tried to explain why the new policy — which will go into effect on April 25 — was put in place.
“There have been over 5 billion commercial airline passengers worldwide allowed to carry these knives. We’re unaware of a single incident involving these small knives on commercial aircraft,” Pistole said.
Pistole said the decision was “solid” and that he and the TSA “plan to move forward with it.”
“It is the judgment of many security experts worldwide — which I agree with — that a small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft,” Pistole said.
However, a number lawmakers have reacted with concern.
“You need to stop this now. These cause bleeding. These can cause a terrible tragedy,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson (D-Texas).
The new policy would allow knives with blades shorter than 2.36 inches and no wider than a half-inch on board. However, box cutters like the ones used by the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers would still be banned.
Speaking in front of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said the new policy “will not fly with the American people.”
“We will not rest until America’s flight attendants, pilots, air marshals and passengers are protected,” said Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, who introduced the No Knives Act in Congress earlier this week.
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg wrote to the TSA’s Pistole, telling him “The new TSA policy to allow additional weapons on airplanes could further exacerbate ongoing security problems at airports in New Jersey and across the country rather than reduce them.”
Members of the airline industry have also voiced their opposition.
“We all know that any way you slice it, a knife like this is a weapon and it doesn’t belong on an airplane,” said Laura Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
TSA FACING MORE HEAT FOR FAKE BOMB FIASCO
But that’s not the only issue that the TSA is dealing with right now.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the agency’s reaction to the latest security lapse at Newark Liberty International Airport was also being criticized.
The failure to catch a fake bomb planted in a federal inspector’s pants late last month at the security checkpoint at Newark Liberty’s Terminal B prompted the TSA on its own website to explain its failure in a blog.
“It’s not like they’re using a cartoonish bundle of dynamite with an alarm clock strapped to it. These items are extremely hard to spot,” the agency said.
When told of what the TSA said, Jerusalem resident and airline passenger Celia Wagschal fired back.
“Their job is to find, to spot the extremely hard ones to spot,” she said.
Mention the TSA to the former head of security for El Al Airlines, and you’ll get an earful.
“This is the security we are looking for?” Isaac Yeffet said.
Yeffet has testified before Congress several times and remains eager to tell anyone who will listen that airport security in America is, he said, going from bad to worse.
“Instead of looking for excuses why we’ve totally failed, I think that the same gentleman who said it … he has to go to be trained how to talk about security,” Yeffet said.
More than a decade after 9/11, the pursuit of airport security continues.
Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …