WASHINGTON – The federal agency in charge of aviation security is considering major changes in how it screens airline passengers, including proposals that an official said would lift the ban on carrying razorblades and small knives as well as limit patdown searches.
The Transportation Security Administration (search) will meet later this month to discuss the plan, which is designed to reduce checkpoint hassles for the nation's 2 million passengers. It comes after TSA's new head, Edmund S. "Kip" Hawley (search), called for a broad review in hopes of making airline screening more passenger-friendly.
An initial set of staff recommendations drafted Aug. 5 also proposes that passengers no longer have to routinely remove their shoes during security checks. Instead, only passengers who set off metal detectors, are flagged by a computer screening system or look "reasonably suspicious" would be asked to do so, a TSA official said Saturday.
Any of the changes proposed by the staff, which also would allow scissors, ice picks and bows and arrows on flights, would require Hawley's approval, this official said, requesting anonymity because there has been no final decision.
"The process is designed to stimulate creative thinking and challenge conventional beliefs," said Mark Hatfield, TSA's spokesman. "In the end, it will allow us to work smarter and better as we secure America's transportation system."
The Aug. 5 memo recommends reducing patdowns by giving screeners the discretion not to search those wearing tight-fitting clothes. It also suggests exempting several categories of passengers from screening, including federal judges, members of Congress, Cabinet members, state governors, high-ranking military officers and those with high-level security clearances.