Skip to main content

Is TSA serious about letting people carry knives?

By Tiffany Hawk, Special to CNN
March 7, 2013 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
This presentation outlines changes to the Transportation Security Administration's prohibited items list. Some small knives will be allowed in carry-on luggage starting in April. This presentation outlines changes to the Transportation Security Administration's prohibited items list. Some small knives will be allowed in carry-on luggage starting in April.
HIDE CAPTION
Knives allowed by TSA
Knives not allowed
Small knives guideline
Sharp objects not allowed
Novelty bats allowed
Sports equipment allowed
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tiffany Hawk shocked TSA soon will allow air passengers to carry some small knives
  • Hawk: There is a reason knives were banned before -- they made the 9/11 attacks possible
  • She says passengers and flight attendants are at risk if someone wields a knife
  • Hawk: Faster and easier checkpoints needed, not backward and absurd policies

Editor's note: Tiffany Hawk, a former flight attendant with United Airlines and Virgin America, is the author of "Love Me Anyway," a forthcoming novel about two young flight attendants coming of age at 35,000 feet.

(CNN) -- Like most Americans, I am stupefied that the Transportation Security Administration will soon permit passengers to carry some small knives on airplanes, especially since the process that turns checkpoints into maddening logjams -- removing shoes, liquids and computers -- remains unchanged.

The only thing more surprising is the news that they will also allow items such as pool cues, lacrosse sticks and one or two golf clubs. Who travels with one golf club? I can just see "Happy Gilmore" twirling his nine-iron as he makes his way through airplane terminals around the country.

The absurdity is just laughable - only this is serious.

Former TSA chief backs 'knife' decision, suggests axes

Tiffany Hawk
Tiffany Hawk

There is a reason knives were banned in the first place -- they killed people and made the 9/11 attacks possible. The TSA argues that hijacking procedures have changed and cockpits aren't likely to be breached by knife-wielding terrorists again. "Sharp objects can no longer bring down aircraft," former TSA chief Kip Hawley told CNN.

Note the word "aircraft" -- not people. As someone who was a flight attendant for United Airlines on 9/11, I am intimately familiar with that logic.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Only a few weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I sat through cockpit briefings that went something like this: "If a terrorist takes you hostage, we will have to let you die," or "If terrorists take over the cabin, we will drive the plane into the ground."

In other words, knives probably won't endanger pilots, skyscrapers or expensive airplanes, but passengers and flight attendants? You're on your own.

I don't know about you, but I find that blatantly offensive. When terrorists use box cutters and pocketknives to slit your colleagues' throats, you don't move on so easily. And that is why I am so utterly slack-jawed at the decision to allow the same weapons that were used to kill so many people. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission found that terrorists used knives such as Leatherman tools to overtake the crew.

Air marshals, flight attendants want TSA to reconsider

Even if I were to concede that small knives no longer pose as imminent a threat as say, bottled water or shampoo, allowing knives stirs up grief and fear for so many. And what is the upside?

TSA to lift ban on small items
Knives on a plane

The TSA claims this policy will benefit passengers, citing the 850 pounds of banned goods that are surrendered at checkpoints each month. Who are these people who don't know about the 12-year-long ban on knives? The same ones who can't buckle a seat belt without watching a safety demo, I suppose.

So the TSA, an already embattled agency, is annoying most of the country and pissing off hoards of flight attendants for the sole benefit of their own screeners and the apparently powerful knife-nut lobby. Could it unwittingly help terrorists, too?

If the search for knives truly is the culprit that's clogging up screening lanes, maybe those who bring them should be fined.

There is no question that our security system is a catastrophe and desperately needs to be overhauled. Do you ever notice just how drastically people's moods change after navigating a checkpoint at a major airport? It's shocking to watch travelers enter the line all smiley and jazzed about a vacation or career opportunity only to emerge exhausted, disheveled, angry and possibly late.

I would even argue that, ironically, the current security system contributes to air rage, an increasing threat of its own. However, I don't believe for one minute that being forced to check one's sporting equipment is anywhere near the heart of the problem.

We need faster and easier checkpoints, but instead of coming up with a novel approach, the TSA wants to go backward. Allowing such weapons just doesn't make sense. Unless, of course, you believe the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a billiards cue is a good guy with a Wiffle ball bat.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tiffany Hawk.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT