Is the TSA looking for the wrong stuff?

Every week, it seems, the TSA’s Blogger Bob heralds another discovery of deadly weapons. The latest is a pair of Ninja daggers secreted in a book titled “Ninja: The Shadow Warrior.” Last week, Blogger Bob touted TSA’s discovery of a stun gun disguised as a cell phone. As Blogger Bob notes, TSA searchers also found “firearm components, ammunition, replica firearms, brass knuckles, a belt buckle knife, a brass kubotan containing a 2½-inch double-edged knife, switchblades, butterfly knives and batons.”

All of this sounds ominous and as if TSA is doing its job. I guess they should get a pat on the back. But should this be TSA’s job? Do they need to be worried about these weapons? Are such weapons any more dangerous in an airplane than they might be while being carried in Grand Central Station or while one is strolling in front of the White House?

Why are we confiscating these kinds of weapons or even replicas of weapons?

Everything traces its way back to 9/11 and the box cutters that were used as the weapon of choice to allow hijackers to get control of the cockpits of four aircraft. When TSA started, cockpits were not hardened, and keeping virtually any weapon out of the hands of terrorists who were boarding planes was the rule. We are fighting a war against a threat that has been eliminated: attackers can’t get to the cockpit anymore.

Today, every airline cockpit door is bolted shut, secured, and bulletproof. In case of emergency, those pilots are not going to open the door for anyone before getting the plane on the ground. I don’t think anyone has figured out a way into a hardened cockpit with box cutters, Ninja knives, baseball bats, even machetes and loaded firearms. I think we can say that for everything except loaded weapons and explosives, TSA can stand down.

Eliminate the searches for and confiscation of items as ridiculous as toy guns and replicas of anything. Reading through the TSA list of prohibited items is worthwhile. It is easy to see how many items that pose no threat to an aircraft are prohibited.

Here are three lists of prohibited items taken from the TSA list. Most of these items are of no threat and should be taken off the list.


I don’t want to get in to a debate about why a screwdriver with a 7-inch blade is less dangerous than a 7-inch knife. The object of this article is to encourage TSA to take another look at aircraft security with changes that have come into effect since 2001, especially in terms of the hardened cockpits, in order to limit the number of items that need to be searched for and confiscated.

Limiting the searches that TSA personnel do will save thousands of hours of time, cut budgets dramatically, allow a focus on the most dangerous risks, and move passengers through security more quickly and with fewer hassles.