Letters from Passengers: On the Great Big Teeny Tiny Knife Debacle.

Some readers have sent in some good points.

Com writes in:

Just a heartfelt shriek from here out in userland that what the TSA  really needs to allow is MORE THAN THREE OUNCES OF WATER. Or shampoo. Or whatever. Honestly, a golf club is less dangerous than a cup of tea?

Or, if it really is, could you, in your lucid way, explain why?

Thanks for a blog that’s a breath of fresh air!

And Jack writes in:

Regarding your post on allowing small knives on planes. My first thought when I heard the news was that this was a deliberate attempt to cause public outrage so that they could latter say “We tried to loosen restrictions but everyone complained.”  Of all the stupid rules the TSA has why choose to ‘fix’ the one rule that would be guaranteed to cause a public outcry.  If they had stopped banning water bottles and peanut butter everyone would cheer, instead they chose to allow small knives, you know, just like the ‘box cutters’ that were used on 9/11.  While I support the rule change I don’t believe it was an honest attempt by the TSA to improve but a manipulative move attempting to gain support and justify existing rules.


One of my first thoughts when hearing about the eased restrictions on knives and sporting goods was also, “Good, now, with any luck, the liquid restriction will ease up soon.” Then, upon witnessing the knee jerk, senseless mass panic about the change, I thought, “Well, there goes any possibility of the TSA ever loosening its grip on anything, ever again.”

I, too, also began to wonder whether or not this was some sort of deliberate move on the part of the TSA, meant to create a precedent to which they can point if the need arises for them to refuse to ease this or that restriction, present or future.

Look. A lot of the TSA’s policies are silly. Yes, ideally, they would have eased the liquids restriction first, before giving media outlets the headline-perfect ammunition of “knives will be allowed aboard planes.”

I don’t know if this easing of restrictions was some sort of plot concocted by TSA headquarters, or if it genuinely represents an honest attempt by the TSA to move toward being an agency more rooted in reality. If I had to bet, my money would go to an ill conceived decision made at the top echelons of the TSA– they underestimated just how virulent the words “certain knives will now be allowed aboard planes” would be. They were naively following this logic:

“Easing sporting good and certain knife restrictions= Cutting down on millions of unnecessarily confiscated items. Potential security impact: minimal, due to passengers’ new willingness to fight back and the fortified cockpit doors, on top of the fact that there have actually been sharp blades aboard nearly every single plane in the sky for decades, now.”


“Easing liquids restriction= Cutting down on millions of unnecessarily confiscated items. Potential security impact: possibly great, because if, on the one-in-a-billion chance that some jackass gets a peroxide-based IED aboard a plane instead of just hitting a mall Oklahoma City-style at a fraction of the risk to his or her mission, a plane could theoretically go down.”

(And I swear to God, if and when the TSA does loosen the liquids restriction, if I see a single media scare story featuring a video demonstrating the detonation of a liquid-based IED under the headline, “Is the TSA’s Easing of the Liquid Policy Putting Us at Risk?” I will delete this  blog and give up.)

Either way, what we know for certain is that there are a lot of people out there right now who are either:

A. Making a lot of irrational noise in outrage over the TSA finally easing some of its senseless restrictions; noise that could very well prove to be to everyone’s detriment; noise that the TSA did not expect.


B. Falling right into some cunningly-laid trap of the TSA’s.

The best thing right now would be for as many people as possible to attempt to reason with the contingent of panicky people out there right now; those people whose knee-jerk overreaction is only making it likelier that the TSA will continue to subject us to irrational, heavy handed policies in the future.

P.S.: If there are any flight attendants or Air Marshals reading this, I’d like to hear from you what the difference is between an angry, violent person wielding a pair of scissors in one hand and a 10 inch knitting needle in the other, vs. that same person holding a 3 inch Swiss Army knife.

UPDATE 3/14/13: 

S.C. writes in:

You’ve used knitting needles as an example of something more dangerous than tiny knives a few times now. Knitting needles are not even slightly sharp. They’re less dangerous than a pencil (e.g., a  metal, mechanical drafting pencil).

Sure, you could sharpen a knitting needle into something pencil-like, but then you only have something as dangerous as a pencil.

I’d stick to the scissors example instead.

Good point (no pun intended). I acknowledge that I’ve never really dealt with knitting needles on intimate terms, outside of glancing at them in passengers’ bags without much giving a shit.


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