Airport security repercussions due to the September 11, 2001 attacks

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Sept. 11, 2001 attacks
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Box-cutter knives were apparently used in the September 11, 2001 attacks, though such knives are not usually considered weapons. The hijackers could have very easily gotten these type of knives past airport security since up until the attacks, they fit the qualifications to be permitted on U.S. domestic flights: any knife with a blade up to 4 inches long was permitted. FAA rules placed into effect on September 13 2001 prohibit any type of knife in secured airport areas and planes.

Airport security for the two flights out of Newark and Washington Dulles had been provided by Argenbright Holdings Ltd, a company which had plead guilty to federal fraud charges in May 2000 because they had hired 1,300 untrained security guards, including several dozens with criminal records, at Philadelphia International Airport. The company is still on probation.

Many security experts and libertarians have criticised new airport security policies. Bruce Schneier believes that the attackers were successful not because of any particular security screening failure, but because hijacking a plane with box cutters and turning them into cruise missiles had simply never been seriously considered before as an attack vector. A similar attack attempted today would surely meet with more resistance, as passengers are now fully aware of the potential.

Another common criticism is that any terrorist prevented from carrying a knife onto an airplane could easily improvise a weapon by, for example, smashing a glass bottle - or just attack with his or her bare hands.

Evidence of this can be seen in the events of September 11 2001 itself, as the passengers on the fourth plane resisted the hijackers once their friends and family called in to report what had happened with the previous three planes. The only difference between this plane and the others was public awareness.

John Gilmore has sued the FAA, Department of Justice, and others arguing that requiring passengers to show identification before boarding flights is tantamount to an internal passport, and is unconstitutional. It may be noted that not all 19 of the September 11th hijackers had valid identification, yet all were able to board.

See also airport security

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