Small scissors and screwdrivers are among the items airline passengers will soon be allowed to take aboard planes again, Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley announced Friday.
Hawley said the change will take effect Dec. 22 and is part of a broader effort aimed at having screeners spend more of their time searching for explosives rather than small, sharp objects that don't pose as great a risk.
Passengers also can expect more randomness at security gates so would-be terrorists won't know for sure what they will see. For example, an airport might require all passengers to remove their shoes one day but not the next.
"It is paramount to the security of our aviation system that terrorists not be able to know with certainty what screening procedures they will encounter at airports around the nation," Hawley said. "By incorporating unpredictability into our procedures and eliminating low-threat items, we can better focus our efforts on stopping individuals who wish to do us harm."
Among the items no longer prohibited from airliner cabins: scissors 4 inches or less, and tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers that are smaller than 7 inches.
Flight attendants and some lawmakers say the changes undermine security.
Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., said Thursday they intend to introduce a bill to preserve the current list of items barred from the cabin.
"The Bush administration proposal is just asking the next Mohamed Atta to move from box cutters to scissors as the weapon that's used in the passenger cabin of planes," Markey said, referring to the leader of the Sept. 11 hijackers.