WASHINGTON -- The head of the air marshals union, whose officers fly armed and undercover on some flights, Thursday called the Transportation Security Administration's decision to let pocketknives back on planes next month "insane."
George Taylor, president for the federal air marshal service within the Federal Law Enforcement Office Association, said terrorists could figure out how to defeat reinforced cockpit doors with weapons similar to the box-cutters used on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It's just absolutely insane," said Taylor, a 36-year law enforcement officer who has been an air marshal since 9/11. "I don't put my faith in that reinforced door. If it's made by man, it can be broken by man."
"They're very upset," Taylor added, about fellow air marshals. "This is not the time to implement this policy."
He spoke at a news conference outside the Capitol where flight attendants also sharply criticized the policy change. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., threatened a House vote on his legislation to prohibit knives on planes if the TSA doesn't reverse course.
"The TSA policy makes no sense," said Markey, who held up a knife that is allowed with a longer blade than a box-cutter. "It is a dangerous policy."
TSA Administrator John Pistole, who announced last week that the policy change would take effect April 25, goes to Capitol Hill later Thursday where he is expected to face questions about the move from members of the House Homeland Security subcommittee.
In announcing the change to let knives and some sports equipment back on flights, Pistole said it would be a way for checkpoint officers to focus on weapons that could bring catastrophic damage, such as non-metallic explosives, that could bring down a plane.
Among the sporting equipment that can be carried on: golf clubs, hockey sticks and small souvenir baseball bats.
Reaction has been mixed, with some security experts and frequent fliers praising the reduction in prohibited items that distract checkpoint officers from more dangerous items. But some security analysts have said travelers have grown accustomed to leaving knives out of their carry-on bags, and the policy change isn't necessary.
The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, which represents 90,000 workers, has been strongly opposed and set up a White House petition with a link from noknivesonplanes.com.
"Any way you slice it, a knife like this is a weapon and it doesn't belong on an airplane," said Laura Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants representing 16,000 workers at American Airlines.