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JFK Screeners Miss Boxcutter, Outrage Ensues

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TSA screeners at New York’s JFK Airport allegedly missed a boxcutter stowed in a passenger’s bag. The passenger—who was not charged with any crime—was able to bring the boxcutter onboard, and was only caught when the boxcutter fell out of his bag.

Naturally, New Yorkers are more than a little outraged. The 9/11 hijackers used boxcutters, you may recall, so this TSA slip-up is imbued with uncomfortable symbolism.

Objectively, however, the presence of a boxcutter on a plane is not a big deal compared to a bomb or gun. Are boxcutters dangerous? Of course. Could someone use one to inflict severe injury, or even kill a person? Yes. But one man armed with a boxcutter is not going to bring down a plane.

For starters, cockpit doors are heavily reinforced, protecting the pilot from any sort of siege on the cockpit, certainly from someone armed with just a boxcutter. And that’s assuming the boxcutter-wielding individual even makes it to the cockpit door. A boxcutter would only briefly delay the inevitable pounding to be delivered by the passengers that subdue the would-be terrorist. Long gone is the mindset that allowed terrorists to storm the cockpit on 9/11. Just ask Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Having said all that, a boxcutter on an airplane is unacceptable, if only because the TSA says so. And so it’s disappointing, though not entirely surprising, that screeners missed not only a prohibited item, but one with particular resonance among the traveling public. Screeners have missed everything from guns to bomb-making materials, and now boxcutters are on the list as well.

Readers, what do you think about this latest TSA gaffe? Is it a big deal, or are people too hard on the TSA?

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