By Robert Lalah
People do stupid things all the time. It's human nature, really. The important thing is to admit when you've done something silly and do whatever's necessary to make things right.
For instance, there's still time for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States (US) to cancel plans to start allowing certain kinds of knives on to US airplanes as of next month. We'll accept that it was simply a miscalculation, an aberration brought about by the stress of the job. But it must act quickly.
When the announcement was made last week, it seemed almost too strange to be true. Small pocketknives and some sporting equipment that had been banned from aircraft after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks would once again be allowed on US planes. This, in the age of pat-downs, X-rays, shoe-stripping and belt-pulling at airports all over the world. Surely, this had to be some sort of Internet hoax.
But soon, the madness was confirmed. As of April 25, knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or shorter and less than a half-inch wide will be permitted on US airline flights as long as the blade is not fixed or does not lock into place. Box cutters are still outlawed, though. You'll also be able to take up to two golf clubs, toy bats and other sports sticks into the airplane cabin. But don't start getting any ideas. That bottle of water is still outlawed, along with other liquids and gels in quantities over 3.4 ounces.
MAKES NO SENSE
Now I'm no security expert, and I realise that this change will bring the US in line with international rules, but this has to be one of the strangest moves the TSA has ever made. Countless Jamaicans, of course, will be impacted by this change. So this is more than just some novel foreign news story. We have as much to lose as anyone else.
I personally can't see the sense in letting passengers carry knives on to airplanes. We go through so much hassle with airport security checks, yet it will only take a single lunatic with one of these knives to commit murder while we're in the sky. Airplanes have long been a prime target of terrorists, and there's no reason to think that this has changed. Why allow them to have tools that can only make their jobs easier?
It seems to me that if we subject ourselves to X-rays and being sniffed by dogs, we should at least feel safe from being stabbed once we're on the plane.
A union representing flight attendants came out quickly against the move and urged the TSA to reconsider, but there's been no indication that these absurd plans are being pulled back. In fact, if a former TSA chief has any say, the whole thing might get crazier. Kip Hawley, who ran the TSA under the George W. Bush administration, told CNN that the door should be opened for other deadly weapons.
"They ought to let everything on that is sharp and pointy. Battle axes, machetes … bring anything you want that is pointy and sharp, because while you may be able to commit an act of violence, you will not be able to take over the plane. It is as simple as that," he said.
TIME TO REFOCUS
His thinking is that this move will free up airport security to focus more on bombs and toxins. Terrorists only want to blow planes up, the theory goes, so even if they commit murder of flight attendants and passengers, they would not have succeeded if the plane stays in the sky.
That's right, every passenger could be stabbed to death, but since there are now reinforced security cockpit doors on planes, knives pose no threat to pilots and so the planes will remain in the air. Mission accomplished. Everyone else is on his own.
Now, remember, although it was reported that the September 11 hijackers used box cutters in their attack, the weapons were never recovered. Investigators have since said they believe other types of knives were used. CNN reported that at a 2004 hearing of the 9/11 Commission, a commission staff member said, "Our best working hypothesis is that a number of the hijackers were carrying - permissible under the regulations in place at the time - permissible utility knives or pocketknives."
So it seems that the TSA is, in this regard, taking things back to how they were on that tragic day. The agency manages the safety of people from all over the world. We all have a lot riding on this. I hope that soon, before it's too late, they'll reverse this decision and let good sense prevail.
Robert Lalah, assistant editor - features, is author of the popular Tuesday feature 'Roving with Lalah'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com