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
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT