Harsh Words For (and a Request To) TSA Administrator Pistole

May 20, 2013

To: TSA Administrator John Pistole, Washington, DC

From: 9/11 widow Rebecca Marchand, Phoenix, Arizona

Dear Administrator Pistole:

As you know, I was widowed on 9/11 when my husband, United Airlines Flight Attendant Alfred Marchand, was murdered by terrorists using box cutters to slash the throats of flight attendants. Today my 27-year old son is a flight attendant. After repeatedly asking for an invitation to a TSA briefing on your decision to allow knives back on flights, I am outraged at the excuses I have been given. I have the right to comment on this issue. You are ignoring many stakeholders who have a right to be heard and I will not go away without being allowed to comment face-ta-face on this change.

You took a solemn oath to secure not only aircraft but also the passengers and crew aboard. From the start, you mishandled the knives proposal by failing to get input from airlines, flight crews, your own employees or anyone else but your inner circle. The announcement was a complete surprise to the aviation community and a huge blow to 9/11 families. I am sickened by your approach. It’s possible this is the way you did business at the FBI, but it is utterly inappropriate in the job you now hold involving so many important stakeholders.

TSA has repeatedly claimed that allowing knives on passenger flights follows an international standard when in fact there is no international standard. The USA should be the leader in aviation security. We were the ones attacked by terrorists with box cutters. After the Boston bombings, TSA delayed implementation ostensibly to get “more input.” We now know you never intended to seek input from the “public.” I believe the delay was used as a way to distance the knife policy from the bombings and quiet the TSA’s critics. But I will not be silenced or stand by and let the TSA put passengers and crew members at risk the way the US government failed nearly 3,000 people on 9/11.

I request that you schedule a briefing open to all 9/11 family members who wish to attend and to seriously consider their input. You, Sir, still get to go home to your wife every night. It has been almost 12 years since I lost the chance to ever see my husband again. The 9/11 families’ loved ones were stolen from us by men using box cutter blades smaller than the knives you now want to allow on planes. I look forward to your prompt emailed response to my request.

No Knives On Planes – NADA/F Opposes Loosening of TSA Rules

Back on March 13, we sent the following press release about the TSA plan to loosen the rules around the prohibited items. Shortly thereafter, flight attendants, airlines, screeners and the public came out against the loosening of the rules too.

Head of the TSA, John Pistole, announced a delay in implementation. Senators Schumer and Murkowski requested the inspector general to look into the TSA decision making.

But, since Pistole has no actual plans to reverse course, it warrants repeating. Although the delay was supposed to be 60 days, the feedback deadline is May 17. Please continue to send the message to your representatives. No Knives on Planes! Pistole is Wrong! There has been no transparency of which “stakeholders” approved this change!



National Aviation Disaster Family Members Opposed to TSA Poor Decision to Allow Passengers to Carry Pocket Knives, Baseball Bats and Golf Clubs on Commercial Airline Flights!

The National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation (NADA/F), founded by air crash survivors and family members, is shocked and strongly opposed to the TSA (Transportation Security Agency) decision to allow passengers to carry pocket knives and more on board aircraft.  TSA is responsible for the safety and security measures, and can find other ways to be cost effective.  All levels of our U.S. government need to realize that Aviation Safety and Security is National Security. TSA said passenger knives conform to international standards.  However, it was the U.S. that was attacked on 9/11, and the U.S must lead with the highest levels of Aviation Security.

I share with you, comments from our NADA/F Board Members and Members, and let their words be the Voice of the Victims for TSA to continue to ban knives and weapons from flights, and protect the traveling public.

Matt Ziemkiewicz, President, NADA/F
Brother to Flight Attendant Jill Ziemkiewicz, TWA 800


TSA Administrator John Pistole said, “Razor blades and box-cutters, like those used by the 9/11 terrorists, will still be banned.  There is too much emotion involved with those.”  This is not an emotional issue, and shows revisionist history at its worst.  Knives on planes are a real and demonstrated danger.  Flight Attendants and passengers are the last line of defense, and commercial aviation must be safe and secure.  We do need to be able to travel without fear.

–Diane Horning, NADA/F Board Member

Mother of Matthew Horning, killed September 11, 2001


Have we gone nuts?  We have come full circle into banning these because they caused 9/11, into now being told and believing that the threat is over?  What was it that caused 9/11? 

Ahh… I remember now.  “A failure of imagination…”

–Kathy and Gordon Haberman, NADA/F Board Members

Parents of Andrea Haberman, 9/11 World Trade Center


As parents of our daughter who died on 9/11, we are opposed to the change to allow pocket knives on commercial airplanes.  It was widely reported in the initial aftermath of 9/11 that the hijackers used box cutters, but none were ever found, and the actual weapons used were never confirmed, per the 9/11 Commission Report.

Does Mr. Pistole have a loss of memory?  Is 9/11 no longer viewed as a catastrophic event?  Mr. Pistole said stakeholders are aware of the change.  What stakeholders support allowing knives on planes? The TSA must ensure that all possible measures be taken to avoid such a disaster again.  The ban on knives and weapons should not be changed.

–Thomas & Joann Meehan, NADA/F Members

Parents of Coleen Ann Meehan Barkow, 9/11 World Trade Center


We know that TSA is trying to save money, but at what horrible price?

–Barbara McFann

Widow of Ted McFann, Delta Captain

Further Examination of NW253

Today and tomorrow on the Hill, there will be a few committee hearings so that legislators can better understand what went wrong leading up to the attempted bombing of NW253 on Christmas.  They are (from GovExec):

  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – Hearing [ 09:30 am, 01/20/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on “Intelligence Reform: The Lessons and Implications of the Christmas Day Attack,” focusing on the attempted bombing incident on Flight 253 to Detroit on December 25.
    Witness(es): Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair; and Michael Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, testify.  The chairman, Senator Joe Lieberman, spoke about this committee hearing on NPR this morning.
  • Senate Judiciary Committee – Hearing [ 10:00 am, 01/20/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on “Securing America’s Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication.”
    Witness(es): Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy; Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for Policy David Heyman, testify
  • Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – Hearing [ 02:30 pm, 01/20/2010 ]
    Full committee hearing on “The State of Aviation Security – Is Our Current System Capable of Meeting the Threat?” focusing on the attempted bombing incident on Flight 253 to Detroit on December 25.
    Witness(es): TBA
  • Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee – Briefing [ 02:30 pm, 01/21/2010 ]
    Full committee closed hearing on the attempted bombing incident on Flight 253 to Detroit on December 25.

We are proud that Rosemary Dillard was on the Hill today representing NADA/F!

TSA Administrator

Also, much attention was paid to the fact that there was no TSA Administrator in place when the attempted bombing of NW253 occurred.  While Senator DeMint has opposed the nomination of Erroll Southers based on perceived differences of labor policy.  It was actually Southers’ past abuse of power, in his position as chief of security with the LAX police, that caused wider doubt as to his suitability for the job.  He has withdrawn himself from consideration (via CongressDaily and GovExec).  I have to say this is a good move, since these recent questions only prevented an efficient confirmation process.  And, this position needs to be filled!

Northwest Flight 253, Christmas Day

As we all now know, a young Nigerian man (also of Yemeni descent), on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas, brought explosives on board with intent to do greater damage than was actually done.   And oh, has it revealed holes in the U.S. and global security systems.  DHS Secretary, Janet Napolitano, finally said as much this morning (story over at NPR).  But, from intelligence and watch lists to screening, a lot went wrong.  It was fortunate for the crew and passengers on that flight that his detonator also failed somewhat.  And, as passenger Jasper Schuringa reminded us, quick-thinking and acting crew and citizens can help out a lot in these situations (via the Detroit Free-Press).

Since then, the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was treated for his burns and is now being held at a federal prison in Michigan.  His detention hearing was postposed and is now scheduled for January 8 (via NY Post).  We have learned that he had ties to a Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda and that his family was concerned enough to bring him to the attention of the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria (via The Washington Post, subscription).  That report resulted in him being added, just a month later, to a U.S. terrorism-related database but not to any aviation watch list (The Washington Post).

NPR had an interview this evening with a witness to a potential accomplice.  He also seems to question whether or not the suspect had appropriate documentation to travel.

There is some discussion about whether or not the primary explosive, PETN, could have been detected with standard equipment.  The Washington Post has a good article on the kind of equipment that CAN detect it and the reasons it hasn’t been fully implemented.  A full pat-down may have revealed the detonator, but in this case, the suspect wasn’t identified for additional screening.  Schiphol, Amsterdam’s Airport, is undertaking a full investigation of their procedures (via The Wall Street Journal) and is obviously, a little defensive.

Since there is more to say on the topic of what TSA has done with their procedures in the days following and the subsequent sensitivity to behavior on planes since, I’ll post on that later!