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

The Government Response

In the week following the attempted bombing of Flight 253, we’ve already seen several stages in the government response to the incident.  And, yes, I use the word “government” broadly, since we are talking about agencies, the executive and legislative branches.  And, other goverments have responded too, but here I’ll just talk about the U.S.

Department of Homeland Security

Secretary Janet Napolitano made quite the misstep, when she originally stated that “the system worked (clip from CNN).”  In trying to assure people, her point was that the action taken subsequent to the fire on the flight was swift and appropriate.  But, it was misinterpreted to mean there was proactive action, which clearly, there wasn’t.

One other issue has come up with this first statement.  While she said all pilots in the air were informed, today the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association disputed that (via WOAW TV 9).  She and President Obama have since identified some of the human and systemic failings and we are learning more every day.  President Obama receives the report of preliminary findings today (via USA Today).

Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana was the first to call for Napolitano’s resignation (via The Hill).  This has become political very quickly and Republicans in Congress have taken this opportunity to criticize the adminstration policy (via AFP).

Transportation Security Administration

The Transportation Security Administration was swift to implement a modified directive that was supposed to be in place through yesterday.  But it was unclear at the time, if it applied to all flights, and for how long.  Among some of the actions taken on flights were  limiting passenger activity for the last hour of the flight and taking televisions and live maps offline.  Since, at least, two bloggers received the directive via email and posted it, there was plenty of online discussion of its contents, relevancy and consistency in implementation.  Many passengers were curious to know what would apply to them and the TSA was not very communicative.  FoxNews had the story online, before the Department of Homeland Security got involved.  Now many outlets are writing about the subsequent subpoenas and investigation.  But, here’s the link to the USA Today story on what happened.  I can say from my original interpretation, I don’t think they realized until later that they were the only ones who had it. 

To our best knowledge, TSA is no longer following that directive.  However, they are looking at expanding the use of full body scanners (via FoxNews), among other things.

Although Erroll Southers was nominated to be TSA Administrator in September, and is a former FBI special agent with counter-terrorism expertise, he has not been confirmed by the Senate.  Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has blocked  the process over concerns the Southers is too friendly to collective bargaining (via WIBW).  I can’t help but think that not having a leader may just as much challenge an agency’s effectiveness as having a leader friendly to labor.  But, Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, says he will force a vote on the nominee in three weeks (Los Angeles Times).

Central Intelligence Agency and Department of State

I can only assume that these two agencies needed to contribute greatly to the preliminary report to President Obama.  Since we now know the suspect’s father communicated his concerns to the U.S. Embassy and the CIA (via ABC News), there must have been serious study of what happened (or didn’t) with that information. 

Intelligence and military leaders are also focused on the role Yemen likely played.  Yesterday, NPR ran a good story on the challenges there.