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Knives and Golf Clubs: TSA Gets Slightly Less Crazy

Tuesday, 5 Mar 2013 | 3:50 PM ET
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Last year I had a knife confiscated on a flight from Des Moines, Iowa back to my home in New York City. To call it a knife is almost a stretch. It was a blade less than one inch long that was part of an antique money clip I used to organize my bills.

Now it's sitting wherever stuff confiscated by the TSA goes. Along with the toddler sunscreen I lost on the way to San Diego. And the yogurt confiscated on the way back from San Diego.

About that yogurt. It turned out that my hotel's mini-fridge was set a bit too cold. So one container of yogurt, the one set nearest to the back of the fridge, froze solid. The other two containers maintained their intended state of semi-liquidity.

The TSA allowed in the frozen solid yogurt, apparently because it was a solid. They only confiscated the ones that were the usual consistency of yogurt. The Transportation Security Administration official seemed to have been under the impression that whatever terrorist attack I might be able to accomplish with regular yogurt was rendered impossible by the mini-fridge's cold.

All of which is to say: the TSA is insane. I'm sure that there are plenty of sane people employed by the TSA. Perhaps, individually, not a one of them is actually insane. But collectively, when it acts as an organization, it is without a doubt insane. Its rules, prohibitions, procedures bear only a tiny relationship to transportation or security. Although I won't begrudge them the word administration. They certainly seem to be able to administrate.

Perhaps, however, the TSA is coming to its senses. Today Administrator John Pistole announced at an event in Brooklyn that the rules about what you can or cannot fly with are being loosened. Golf clubs, wiffle ball bats, and even small knives will be allowed on board. Pool cues, hockey sticks, and ski poles too.

While this is somewhat of a relief, the reasoning the TSA gives is annoying. They are doing it to confirm to international standards. But if these things can be safely allowed on board in order to conform to international standards, why on earth were they being banned at all. Do we need Swiss Air to tell us what is dangerous?

The truth is that ever since cockpits were locked following the 9/11 attacks, it has become far harder to highjack an airplane with a knife or a golf club. It's not impossible to do with an explosive. But you just aren't going to have much luck when the pilots are locked inside their cockpit and understand that they won't be sparing anyone's life if they open the door under a threat from a terrorist.

Non-frozen yogurt, however, is still a problem. Best freeze it.

Follow me on Twitter @Carney

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