The TSA Knife Ban: Regardless, We’re Not Safe


Hello from seat 9F on an American Airlines flight to Las Vegas. Yes, I am on the road, again. I pretend like I hate it. I’m addicted. I have always loved traveling. As a kid, I (sorta) remember the days when you could walk into an airport and head right up to the gate.

No real security. No boarding pass needed to enter the terminal.

I also remember the first war in the Persian Gulf. Things changed. You could no longer walk freely through the terminal. Metal detectors were installed. Things started to feel scary.

Then 9/11 happened.

Before that horrible day, the security at our airports was privatized and managed through an outsourced service provider. The security firms were paid by the airlines. And the metrics for success were simple: How many passengers can we get through security in the shortest amount of time while keeping overall labor costs low?

That’s capitalism.

Due to many complex reasons — including our privatized airport security system and the Bush administration’s indifference to the presidential daily briefings in August of 2001 — 19 hijackers were allowed to board flights on 11 September 2001. The 20th hijacker, Mohamed al-Kahtani, was refused entry into our country in August 2001 by José Meléndez-Pérez, a US Immigration inspector at Orlando International Airport.

FYI —  José Meléndez-Pérez is a hero. And he was a federal employee.

The private market failed us on 9/11. That’s how the Transportation Security Administration was born. Unfortunately, from the moment of its inception, TSA was politicized.

  • After the attacks, we needed a harmonized airport security system that worked with the CBP/CIA/FBI to analyze data, screen passengers and leverage the best technology to prevent future attacks.
  • What we got is a hodgepodge of compromise. Our representatives spent little time thinking about our security, but they argued non-stop about collective bargaining rights and labor contracts.

You work in HR. You know it’s all about the unions.

So where are we in 2013?

Well, the unions are quiet right now. And everyone is joining together and getting upset about knives while passengers are forced to give up privacy and dignity when they march through ineffective TSA security lines.

We are not safer. Knives or not.

Our political system is still awash with money from corporations and unions.

And I really do think that Al Qaeda has won this round.

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