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TSA Chief Defends New Policy on Knives

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Transportation Security Administration Director John Pistole had to deal with some pointed questions from D.C. lawmakers on Thursday about the agency's plans to allow pocket knives on board commercials planes in April.

Last week, the TSA and Pistole came under fire from airlines, airport screeners, federal air marshals, flight attendants and pilots regarding the policy switch to lift the ban on small knives in airline cabins, a prohibition that resulted from the 9/11 attacks.

Testifying at a Homeland Security subcommittee hearing, Pistole contended that "a small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft, and an improvised explosive device will."

The TSA chief said the time of airport screeners would be better served looking for explosives rather than sharp instruments.

Lifting the ban means knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or shorter and less than a half-inch wide can be brought onto planes by passengers, provided the blade is neither fixed nor locks into place.

In defending his position, Pistole brought up relaxed rules by overseas carriers, telling lawmakers, "There have been over five billion commercial airline passengers worldwide allowed to carry these knives.  We are unaware of a single incident involving these small knives on commercial aircraft."

However, Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee warned that allowing any knives on planes could mean disturbed passengers might potentially use them to injure other passengers or flight attendants and urged Pistole to rescind the new policy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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