Explosives are bigger threat than knives, TSA chief tells House members
WASHINGTON — Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole defended his decision to let passengers carry small knives on board flights on Thursday, saying “these are not things that terrorists are continuing to use.”
Instead, he told House members on Capitol Hill that airport security officers should be concentrating on non-metal explosives that have the capability to blow a hole in a plane.
Pistole last week announced that passengers could carry on small penknives and some sporting equipment such as two golf clubs, hockey sticks and small, souvenir baseball bats for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., commended him for the move. “I think it's common sense what you've done,” Rogers said.
Not every congressman on the House Homeland Security subcommittee agreed. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., held up a golf club and a hockey stick, asking whether they were dangerous.
“I think it could cause serious harm,” Thompson said of the hockey stick.
Many flight attendants, pilots and even air marshals, who fly on commercial planes undercover, have come out against letting the items on board.
George Taylor, president for the federal air marshal service within the Federal Law Enforcement Office Association, said terrorists could figure out how to defeat reinforced cockpit doors with weapons similar to the box cutters used on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It's just absolutely insane,” said Taylor, a 36-year law enforcement officer who has been an air marshal since 9/11. “I don't put my faith in that reinforced door. If it's made by man, it can be broken by man.
“They're very upset,” Taylor added, about fellow air marshals. “This is not the time to implement this policy.”
Taylor spoke at a news conference outside the Capitol where flight attendants also sharply criticized the policy change. There, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., threatened a House vote on his legislation to prohibit knives on planes if the TSA doesn't reverse course.
“The TSA policy makes no sense,” said Markey, who held up a knife that is allowed with a longer blade than a box-cutter. “It is a dangerous policy.”
Pistole showed lawmakers a video of the destructive force of the explosive found on a passenger in December 2009 that destroyed a sheet of plywood between two sawhorses.
“This is what I believe the TSA should be focused on,” Pistole said. “It really comes down to how can we best utilize our resources.”
He said TSA's policy on knives is still more restrictive than in federal buildings.
“Given the overall intelligence, these are not things that terrorists are continuing to use,” Pistole said of small knives.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Carnegie Mellon expert to school Congress on security
- Tribune-Review poll: Cable news rises as network news falls
- Dems keep blocking joint negotiations on immigration orders
- EPA ripped for evading request for information
- Lawmakers press Veterans Affairs for improved access to rural health care
- Several states in path of wintry blasts
- Maryland’s Senator Mikulski announces retirement
- IRS audits of businesses reach 8-year low
- Supreme Court justices split on states’ panels to prevent gerrymandering
- $4.8M in gold taken in armored truck hijacking in North Carolina
- Los Angeles rookie officer claims shooting victim grabbed his gun