Sen. McCain demands hearing into allowing knives on planes

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is calling for congressional hearings to see if a new rule allowing airline passengers to carry knives and bats on flights should be blocked.

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His intervention comes after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) relaxed post 9-11 rules to allow blades up to 2.36 inches long. Razors and box cutters, which the terrorists used on Sept 11, 2011, are still banned.

“We need a congressional hearing on the whole issue of what is a danger to the entire flight,” McCain said in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan. “I think we need to call witnesses since they have made this policy change.”

The rules change was made to allow passengers to bring pen knives and corkscrews with small blades onto planes. But it has sparked a backlash.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents federal air marshals, says it was not consulted by TSA and plans to ask Congress to stop the policy change.

The Flight Attendants Union Coalition has launched a lobbying campaign to fight the change, as well.

The Coalition of Airline Pilot Associations also opposes it.

John Pistole, TSA’s administrator, says the change aligns U.S. policy with international carry-on regulations.

McCain said the loosening of policy on small knives is out of step with TSA’s otherwise rigorous screening procedures, which he would like to see streamlined.

“My concern is that our TSA procedures have basically not changed in the last 12 years. They're still having to do invasive body searches. We still wait in long, long lines,” he said.

“Couldn't we have a fast lane? Couldn't we have — develop a technology where we could all just walk through?” McCain added.

McCain acknowledged his interest was, in part, self-serving because he is a frequent flier, as are many members of Congress.

“I have not seen a single advance in technology in expediting people through airports since we put these procedures in place in 9/11. That's what I would like to know about,” he said.

“I'm sure I say that for a selfish reason because of the frequency of my visits to airports,” he added.

--This report was updated at 3:10 a.m.