Relaxing of TSA rules make travel less safe
With the array of metal detectors and lines of uniformed security guards a fixture of today‚Äôs travel experiences, there‚Äôs no doubt that airport security has been radically transformed by the 9/11 attacks ‚ÄĒ air travel has not been, nor will it ever be, quite the same again.
But rules change as years pass.
This week, the Transportation Security Administration announced that on April 25, the ban on pocketknives and various sporting equipment aboard planes will be lifted. Though some logical reasons have been given for the repeal of the ban, none seem good enough to justify this abrupt relaxation of rules. If anything, America‚Äôs wounds from 9/11 still remain, and relaxation of security rules can only make that wound more vulnerable.
Going 12 years back to the hectic aftermath of 9/11, airport security skyrocketed overnight. Just two months after the attacks, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act created the TSA, which took over screening responsibilities from airlines. Multiple luggage screeners scan every piece of baggage today; only 5 percent of checked baggage was inspected before 9/11, according to the Billings Gazette. Plus, long security lines at airports have become a familiar fixture that Americans are now accustomed to.
Having said that, it is understandable that some travelers feel uncomfortable with this lift in the ban on small knives, hockey sticks, golf clubs, toy bats, billiard cues and ski poles. Though the TSA‚Äôs laundry list of seemingly nonsensical prohibited items has ellicited criticism from security experts and policy pundits in past years, now it seems that some of the public has been outraged over the ban. Therefore, the reaction to an effort to clean up the list seems to be the opposite of the expected.
According to CNN, flight attendant unions have been quick to complain that the relaxation of rules would expose cabin crew to dangers and make flights less safe. And George Randall Taylor, head of the air marshal unit of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said in a statement that ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs as if we didn‚Äôt learn anything from 9/11. Flight attendants are going to be sitting ducks.‚ÄĚ This only goes to show that no matter how often they harp over the strict guidelines, people still prefer the better-safe-than-sorry mantra.
According to the Daily Mail, this change seeks to bring TSA security guidelines more in line with International Civil Aviation Organization standards for creating better travel experiences. Logical as this might seem, the TSA apparently did not take into account the psychological effect restriction loosening would have on passengers.
Yes, small knives shorter than 2.36 inches might not seem like real weapons, but people‚Äôs paranoia is capable of distorting the harm of such a tool, and the last thing we need is more people on edge in airports and in flights. Also, a person that sets out to do damage with a 2.5-inch blade is capable of damage that should never be underestimated. A knife is a knife, no matter how small, and just knowing that they‚Äôre allowed through gives way to uneasiness all the same.
The danger that objects such as pocketknives or modified ski poles pose can be as real as the ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ threats of bombs and guns. After all, security is only as strong as its weakest link.
The emotional disruption that comes with the lift of this ban is a significant factor to consider. In the days since the TSA announcement, family members of 9/11 victims have been speaking out against the changes with concerns that reach beyond psychological fears to losses close to the heart.
The alarm is real and the disturbed emotions are real. And threats, no matter how tiny, have real consequences ‚ÄĒ even the ones that come in the form of pocketknives.
Valerie Yu is a freshman majoring in biological sciences and English. Her column ‚ÄúHeart of the Matter‚ÄĚ runs Fridays.