Lawyers for nine organizations representing 400,000 aviation professionals, passengers and law enforcement officers filed a legal petition this week with Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole and copied to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano seeking to rescind plans to allow knives in the aircraft cabins for the first time since 9/11.
“The Transportation Security Administration and the Homeland Security Department cannot dismiss the grave security concerns of 400,000 people on the front lines of U.S. aviation, including TSA’s own Transportation Security Officers and Air Marshals,” the coalition asserted. The coalition also includes Flight Attendants, gate agents, pilots, law enforcement and passengers.
The petition makes five critical points:
— Permitting knives in the cabin is an unnecessary risk to the traveling public and violates the Administrator’s duty—as set out by Congress. A TSA-approved knife could be used to stab or kill a passenger, crew member, federal air marshal, gate agent or TSA Security Officer by a terrorist, mentally ill person or drug or alcohol-impaired passenger. A TSA-approved a knife could be used to hijack a plane.
— It would be irresponsible to relax the TSA’s existing policy on knives when virtually every organization representing those directly affected by the change adamantly opposes it on safety and security grounds.
— Federal regulations currently ban all weapons on airplanes and in airport secure areas, and a knife is a weapon.
— TSA’s argument for the change is false. TSA says the change would bring the US in line with the international standard for knives. There is no international standard for knives: Canada, Israel and Taiwan – to name a few – ban knives on planes.
— One of the nation’s foremost experts on knives provides testimony stating that with many folding knives the only way to be certain whether its blade locks is to open the knife. However, TSA has instructed its Officers to screen knives in only a closed position. Consequently, knives that lock will inevitably wind up on airport concourses and aircraft cabins. Should TSA change its directive and allow TSA’s officer to directly examine knives at security checkpoints, the Officers would have to devote substantially more time to screening knives and security lines would slow.
The planned rule change is arbitrary and capricious and to implement it without using the federal rulemaking procedure would be unlawful. If TSA moves forward with this dangerous change, the petitioners reserve the right to challenge TSA in federal court.
Without warning, TSA announced in March it would allow certain knives (with blades up to 2.36 inches long) through security and into the passenger cabin starting April 25.
Following massive opposition from those on the frontlines of aviation and national security concerns highlighted by the April 15 Boston terrorist bombings, TSA announced April 22 it would temporarily postpone the new knife policy. It has not said it would reconsider the policy shift.
The Coalition’s legal filing is adamant: No Knives on Planes Ever Again.
Click here to view the full petition with exhibits.