Skift Take

Pistole's personal involvement in briefing Congress members and 9/11 families about the new knives policy shows how strong the opposition was, but the TSA is adamant that it is doing the right thing.

The 133 House members who wrote to TSA administrator John Pistole last month asking for a reversal of the policy that would put small knives back on planes beginning April 25 received a letter from him over the last couple of days outlining why he’s sticking with the policy.

The Pistole letter [embedded below] includes a two-page explanation of why the TSA made the decision to focus instead on weapons that could lead to a “catastrophic” attack.

“Given these real and significant threats, security experts worldwide have concluded that small pocket knives and certain sporting equipment do not pose a security risk that would result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft and the loss of all life on board,” Pistole wrote. “I want the men and women of TSA to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way, focusing on those devices that could take down an aircraft.

The TSA administrator noted that there have been no terrorist acts using knives on board an aircraft since September 11.

Pistole’s letter is actually seven pages long, and also includes a section outlining the background to the decision, risk-based initiatives since 9/11, details of an internal review, and a list of briefings with Senators, House members and flight attendants associations that Pistole has personally conducted since the TSA announced the new policy last month.

In fact, on March 27, Pistole gave a classified briefing on the new policy to 9/11 families, the letter states.

And, the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, which includes consumer advocates, and aviation and travel industry organizations, is slated to get the same classified briefing April 22, several days before the knives policy goes into effect.

Here’s one of Pistole’s letters, this one dated April 3 and addressed to U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi):

Download (PDF, 117KB)


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Tags: security, tsa

Photo credit: A man is screened with a backscatter x-ray machine as travelers go through a TSA security checkpoint in terminal 4 at Los Angeles International Airport on May 2, 2011. Danny Moloshok / Reuters

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