TSA Defends Allowing Small Knives on Planes

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A heated debate over airline security is unfolding on Capitol Hill: Is it really a good idea to allow knives, even small ones, onboard airplanes?

The Transportation Security Administration says yes, but many critics in Congress don't agree.

Lawmakers grilled TSA Administrator John Pistole about his decision to allow small pocket knives, golf clubs, and even hockey sticks on planes.

"This is a big deal and I'm trying to figure out how this could not be perceived as something potentially dangerous to people on planes?" Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., asked during Thursday's hearing.

Pistole said hardened cockpit doors make it extremely difficult to hijack a plane with a knife, and he'd rather airport screeners focus on bigger threats, such as improvised explosive devices.

"A small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft," Pistole said.

The decision has brought broad condemnation, with major airlines and unions representing airplane crew members voicing outrage.

Concerned flight attendants and TSA screeners gathered at the Capitol.

"No matter how you slice it, a knife like this is a weapon and it doesn't belong on an airplane," American Airlines flight attendant Laura Glading said.

"No knives on planes not now, not ever," J. David Cox, president of president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said.

Box cutters like the ones the 9/11 hijackers used would still be banned, but the new policy allows folding blades less than a half inch wide

A bill has been introduced in Congress to stop the agency's plan from ever getting off the ground.

"TSA will give this knife a boarding pass and tell this other blade that it is banned," Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said. "The TSA policy makes no sense."

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