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Editorial: TSA should ban steel knives at all airports

Newsday reporter Bill Dedman uncovered a surprising security

Newsday reporter Bill Dedman uncovered a surprising security lapse at JFK airport.

Air travelers do their part to maintain security, as annoying and inconvenient as it is, by taking off their shoes, gulping down what's left in water bottles and submitting to full-body scans before they board airplanes. If they're carrying even a pocketknife, it is confiscated.

So it was pretty shocking that passengers could have walked out of two restaurants located beyond the security checkpoints at Kennedy Airport with hefty 5-inch steel-blade knives and most likely boarded flights. That was the case until a recent Newsday-News 12 undercover investigation exposed the breach in security.

On six occasions, Newsday reporter Bill Dedman, who had bought one-way tickets, ordered steak dinners at one of two high-end establishments. Five times Dedman was able to slip a serrated-edge knife with a rounded tip into a briefcase with no one noticing or inquiring about the missing utensil. After 10 minutes each time, Dedman returned the knife to his table. The sixth time, Dedman left the airport with a knife, but he just as well could have boarded his flight to San Francisco.

The Transportation Security Administration told Newsday it has detailed rules for handling knives at airports, requiring utensils to be removed when meals are done. The TSA said if a knife were missing, airport authorities would be notified and the traveler located. But that's not what happened to Dedman.

Just hours after the investigative story was posted online, the Port Authority banned metal knives, imposing a plastic-only rule for utensils, the norm at many airport eateries. The TSA should make the same cut and prohibit such knives at all airports.

See video on the investigation at JFK: