Saturday, August 13, 2005


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 razor blades and small knives as well as limit pat-down searches.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will meet later this month to discuss the plan, which is designed to reduce checkpoint hassles for the nation’s 2 million passengers. The agency proposed the changes after its new chief, Edmund S. Hawley, 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 remove their shoes routinely 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 yesterday.

Any of the changes the staff proposed, which also would allow scissors, ice picks and bows and arrows on flights, would require Mr. Hawley’s approval, said the official, who requested anonymity because there has been no final decision.

“The process is designed to stimulate creative thinking and challenge conventional beliefs,” TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield said. “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 frisks 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.

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