Our Opinion: Searching for justification to relax carry-on rules

The federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is nothing if not inconsistent.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, the TSA banned from cabins a range of potentially dangerous items — from pocket knives to gels exceeding a specified quantity.

The agency announced Tuesday it will relax that policy, beginning next month. Permissible carry-on items will include: pocket knives with blades less than 2.36-inches long and half-inch wide; souvenir baseball bats less than 24-inches long; ski poles; two golf clubs; and other sporting equipment.

As a reminder, the terrorists who hijacked a commercial plane and destroyed the World Trade Center were armed with box cutters.

A TSA spokesman said “the decision to permit these items as carry-on was made as part of TSA’s overall risk-based security approach and aligns TSA with international standards.”

Huh?

That’s bureaucratic gobbledygook.

Even if it were a comprehensible answer, why did it take 12 years to assess risk-based security?

Another TSA justification is the relaxed carry-on restriction will allow the agency to concentrate on more serious safety threats.

If TSA agents now must measure the blade of each pocket knife rather than simply confiscate it, how does the added duty provide agents with more time to concentrate on more serious threats?

Criticism of the new policy already has come from unions representing flight attendants and other airline workers, and from relatives and friends of people who perished in the terrorist attacks.

Passengers deserve to be similarly outraged.

Pilots behind locked cockpit doors are not in jeopardy; flight attendants and passengers are likely victims and/or hostages if someone armed with a sharp knife, golf club and ski pole is bent on mayhem.

Screening airline passengers is deemed a reasonable safety procedure that does not conflict with the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches.

If airline passengers are to be subject to inconvenient — and, occasionally embarrassing — searches, let them at least be thorough.

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