Video: Flying with scissors

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updated 12/2/2005 10:58:40 AM ET 2005-12-02T15:58:40
STORY

For the past four years, even nail clippers have been considered too dangerous to be allowed on board commercial airplanes in this country.  The silverware has been plastic.  All sharp objects have been confiscated.

Now, the rules have changed. 

Scissors with a blade less than four inch long will be allowed, as will tools under seven inches long.  But a flight attendant's union says four-inch scissor blades are still lethal. 

"By having the blades sharpened or being separate and creating two knives.  Which would serve the same purpose as a box cutter," according to Patricia Friend, of the Association of Flight Attendants.

Still, the TSA says scissors and small tools pose a minimal risk because cockpit doors are now bullet proof and locked.  Air marshals and pilots carry guns and passenger luggage is X-rayed.  But the TSA also believes the screening process has become far too predictable.  The order from the new boss, is to change the routine every day. 

"That is an additional element of security," said Kip Hawley, the TSA's new director. "You will see, for instance, canine patrols now working out in front of the passenger check point.  That's new."

News of the upcoming changes were greeted incredulity by one U.S. congressman, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who promised to reintroduce a congressional measure to ban all blades from airplanes while using a visual tool to emphasize his point. 

"Flight attendants and passengers should not be put in a situation where a scissors, a sharp scissors can be taken apart and used as a weapon at the throat of flight attendants and passengers at any time," Markey said.

On Thursday, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann welcomed Mike Boyd, an aviation consultant and founder of the Boyd Group, to discuss the changes.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video clip, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

KEITH OLBERMANN:  On the face of it, Congressman Markey argument seems to have a lot of logic behind it.  But I gather you don't agree with him in principle or in detail. 

MIKE BOYD:  Well, you get on an airplane.  There are a lot of pointy objects.  Forks are now again metal.  Your Bic pen can be used as a pointy object.  I mean, Congressman Markey before 9/11, even though he was made aware of Logan's bad security never said anything.  So, I don't put a lot of credibility in what this guys says. 

The point is, we need security that anticipate threats, not goes after just some pointy objects, because there's a lot of those things already on an airplane today, anybody can use those kind of things if they want to make mayhem.  And in the last four years, if we have an al-Qaida cell that was made up of angry hair dressers, we might have been safer.  But that's not the case.
 
OLBERMANN:  So the thought here from TSA is spend the time and the effort looking for bombs, not pointy objects.  But are we, in fact, looking for bombs? 

BOYD:  We're not looking for either one.  The fact is, on 9/11, the chances are that those box cutters and probably guns, too, got on those airplanes before the terrorists got on.  That kind of a hole, the TSA doesn't even consider now.  And looking for bombs, I mean, the equipment they used is shoddy.  We don't even know how effective they are.

So, the TSA doesn't get off the edge here.  Taking away the ability of somebody to take away a Phillips screwdriver that's not going to make us any safer.  But the point of the matter is, we have got bigger hole than that to fill.  And the TSA is incapable of doing it. 

OLBERMANN:  Ideally, you would want fewer sharp objects, you'd want more screening for explosives.  But given our record since 9/11, what we're likely to wind up with not getting better screening for explosives no matter what they change. 

Isn't the only result of this practically going to be making it easier for, if not a true terrorist, then a psychopath to get on a plane with a weapon and wreak some sort of havoc, even if he does not intend to crash into something? 

BOYD:  Well, the psychopath get on an airplane right now, and he can take a Bic pen and use it as a weapon.  He can take his American Express Gold Card and shave it properly and slit somebody's throat.  He can take the fork the flight attendant gives him, which is metal, and use that as a weapon.  He can go to the lavatory and rip some parts off the doors and whatnot and make a weapon. 

So, taking grandma's nail clippers away doesn't make us any safer. 

OLBERMANN:  And the idea that if you change the screening rules for sharp objects, or sneakers or whatever you're changing that they mentioned in there, if you mix it up from day to day that that will confound anybody who is trying to study the screening rules?  What do you make of that? 

BOYD:  Well, I think if terrorists study the TSA, they may die laughing.  That may be the only real issue here, because they know this is no a real threat, a real trained terrorist.  This is basically more show than go. 

But the idea that having a pair of small scissors on the airplane or not having it there makes us any more safe is just ridiculous.  I mean, it would be great not to have pointy objects.  But there's plenty on that airplane to start with.

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