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How Did Walter Murphy Get Off the No-Fly List?:
My apologies for posting so much on the Walter Murphy story — I think it's pretty interesting, although I realize some readers will disagree — but I wanted to flag this remarkable portion of Ryan Singel's interview with Walter Murphy on getting off the No-Fly list. (Thanks to commenter "JonC" for drawing it to my attention.)

  Recall that when Professor Murphy flew to Newark from Albuquerque, he was told that he was on the Terrorist Watch List. However, by the time of his return flight to Albuquerque, he was apparently no longer on the list; he was able to get his boarding pass without incident. So one obvious question is, if the Bush Administration is trying to attack Professor Murphy to suppress his speech, why would they take his name off the list just a day or two later? In the Singel interview, Professor Murphy speculates as to the reason:
I flew back without having trouble getting a boarding pass. But when I was in Princeton, I had breakfast with former student — a Republican congressman, and called a number of friends in my academic life, and the NSA monitors a lot of phone calls, especially cell phone calls, so I tried to use the words that might trip their computers like starting calls by saying, "I'm on the terrorist watch list" and "I've been criticizing George Bush" and if indeed these things are monitored, maybe they heard this, I don't know.
  I realize that Professor Murphy honestly and genuinely feels targeted. But am I right that we're veering off into UFO-sighting territory here? Think about this for a second. Murphy suggests that the fact that he was only questioned once rather than on every flight doesn't mean that perhaps his name wasn't actually on the No-Fly list. Rather, it means that his name initially was put on the list to punish him for his Princeton speech — but then, by the time of the outbound flight, perhaps NSA or other government surveillance of him had tipped off the government that he was on the list, and led them to take him off the list. I really don't mean to be harsh, but that strikes me as just, well, weird.

  Professor Murphy also states in the interview that he knows other people have been taken off the No-Fly list. In particular, he suggests that "bright, highly paid legal secretaries" might be able to use connections to get lawyers taken off the list:
One friend who called me said, "I got put on, too." He used to be [a] fairly high-powered mover and shaker. "How did you get off?," I asked. "I'm partner in large law firm and I told my secretary to get me off," he said. "And I've been able to fly since."
  Again, this just sounds really unlikely. (Okay, okay, get your mind out of the gutter, people.) I know law firm partners often receive excellent secretarial assistance, but why would a private law firm secretary know how to get a name removed from the government's No-Fly list?

  Finally, the Singel interview sheds a little more light on the matter of Murphy's lost luggage. In the original post at Balkinization, Professor Murphy said the following about his lost luggage:
On my return flight, I had no problem with obtaining a boarding pass, but my luggage was "lost." Airlines do lose a lot of luggage and this "loss" could have been a mere coincidence. In light of previous events, however, I'm a tad skeptical.
  From this passage, it sounds like Murphy's luggage completely disappeared. In the Singel interview, however, Murphy explains that the "lost" luggage actually just showed up a few hours late:
When I got back to Albuquerque, the airline said my luggage was lost. It was delivered later that night, sometime after midnight. I don't know when. I left a note on the door telling them just leave it. It arrived some time overnight and I found nothing missing.
  Again, I realize that Professor Murphy honestly and genuinely feels targeted. And it's true that Professor Murphy is an academic giant; he's he author of many major and important works, including one of my favorite books, Wiretapping on Trial. At the same time, I'm increasingly finding this story rather embarrassing. At this point it sounds to me like much ado about nothing, perhaps just a story of miscommunication or what happens when bored American Airline clerks in Albuquerque decide to have fun with a distinguished gentleman flying to Newark.

  In any event, it seems to me extremely unlikely that Professor Murphy was actually targeted by the government for his Princeton speech.
ed o:
[Deleted by OK. C'mon, folks, you can take a position without being nasty.]
4.11.2007 2:27pm
Le Messurier (mail):
(I don't like commenting "next" to a deleted one. It makes me uncomfortable), but I will anyway:


Can you say "Paranoid"
4.11.2007 2:37pm
Bored Lawyer:
And just what was in that luggage, hmmmm?
4.11.2007 2:39pm
AppSocRes (mail):
Three words: querulous, petulant, dotard.
4.11.2007 2:39pm
Jeek:
Wow, so every time I receive crappy service from the airlines, it's because the government secretly hates me?
4.11.2007 2:41pm
Jeff Shultz (mail):
BDS syndrome, yep.

Guess he doesn't actually travel much? This is not atypical of my normal flying experiences over the past 20-odd years. And I've been carrying a military ID card for that entire period.
4.11.2007 2:44pm
FC:
I suggest a corollary to Prof. Kerr's hypothesis: The "bored American Airline clerks in Albuquerque decide[d] to have fun with" Murphy because his self-importance and paranoia made him an attractive mark.
4.11.2007 2:44pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Actually, Professor Murphy has only begun to uncover the conspiracy. The Draco-reptilians put him on the list. The Grays took him off.

Nick
4.11.2007 2:46pm
Alan P (mail):
Having worked for the Government for ten years and having spent twenty years litigating against the Government, the notion that anything gets done in just two days is just to silly to believe.
4.11.2007 2:46pm
Houston Lawyer:
Not only is the government very efficient, but now legal secretaries pull all the strings. One of the primary reasons I started typing my own documents years ago was to save me from the incompetence of big firm legal secretaries.

To quote Catbert "I'm sure supermodels are secretly reading his email"
4.11.2007 2:46pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
Orin,

Thanks for your posts on this. Academic people should be a voice for sense in a world in which that isn't much valued. Too often, we aren't.
4.11.2007 2:47pm
cirby (mail):
I'd bet that, instead of this wonderful conspiracy that he's got built up in his head, it was more on the order of the following:

He's in line at the airport, and it's not moving as fast as he wants. So he complains, to all and sundry, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, about how inept those peons at the desk are, and how he's a really important person who shouldn't be waiting. Then, when he gets to the counter, he's rude directly to the counter attendant. Who then flags him for "special attention." And puts the wrong tag on his luggage, as a bonus.

At the next airport, he's not quite so rude (or they give him more slack), so he flies trouble-free.

I've flown enough to notice that a number of those "random" special inspections are the result of someone being, well, an asshole, and getting his reward on the spot.
4.11.2007 2:49pm
BCN:
I believe that there is an episode of Boston Legal where Denny Crain has the same problem and gets off the list by bringing every other person Denny Crain into court.

My conculsion is that Mr. Murphy has lost his mind. He is quoting TV shows as proof of how the govt works; and talking about Bush on his cell phone lets the NSA know he is on to them.

BCN
4.11.2007 2:49pm
Gone Fission':
This sounds like a good time to invoke Ockham's Razor.
4.11.2007 2:52pm
rarango (mail):
Imus, Professor Murphy, the father of Ana Nichole Smith's child: The American media at its finest matched only by the its ability to zero in on those events that alter and illuminate our times..... (apologies to "you are there.)

I will note that there are quite a few VC commenters who could easily get another job as comedy writers. I have had to clean off the monitor on several occasions.
4.11.2007 2:57pm
Davebo (mail):
He's probably still on the list.

Once they cleared him for the original flight they would also clear him for the return flight.
4.11.2007 2:59pm
A.S.:
I'm not sure why people are skeptical. I work at a pretty big firm, and my secretary is quite competent copying, FedEx-ing, ordering lunch for meetings, and removing the partners from the Terrorist Watch List. These are skills more important than Microsoft Word these days.
4.11.2007 3:00pm
Bored Lawyer:

One friend who called me said, "I got put on, too." He used to be [a] fairly high-powered mover and shaker. "How did you get off?," I asked. "I'm partner in large law firm and I told my secretary to get me off," he said. "And I've been able to fly since."


Does Osama bin Laden know this trick?
4.11.2007 3:04pm
loki13 (mail):
Prof. Kerr,

I hate to ask the question, as I believe (despite the many detractors you have elsewhere) that you have been evenhanded... but what does this sotry mean? What is the meta-narrative? What is the elephant in the room? I realize that you have been focusing solely on the validity of the good professor's claims, but I must ask you- why do you think he feels the way he does?

Compare this story with your treatment of the USAttorney story. Or... the targeting of political groups by the FBI. Or the use of Natl. Security Letters. The beginning of the story is always the same- of course nothing improper (or political) is going on! But then more details begin to emerge... and more.... and more....

The USAs is a perfect example. First it was about the firings. The about the sneaky Patriot Act provision. Then we learn that many of the ones fired were termed because they didn't prosecute Democrats. Now we're learning that the DOJ has, in recent times, reversed a long-standing policy and brought cases against Democrats right before elections (MIlwaukee) and continued investigation in political corruption cases against Republicans (Nevada).

Or the systemic Hatch violations at the GSA.

These are the things that get you wondering. I agree with your analysis- it appears the good professor is being a little paranoid, but given the revelations we've received in even just the last three weeks about the total politicization of the Federal Government... well, I can understand his paranoia. That's the problem with what's going on... I'm liberal, but I understood the Iraq war; whether you classify the administration's justifications as 'lies' or 'selective use of uncorroborated intelligence', it is within their preorgative to make the case, and Congress (wrongly) signed off on it. So be it. Stupid mistake, but it was Bush's mistake to make.

The stuff coming out now, though.... the government is supposed to be for the American People (to use the trite phrase), not the Republican Party. USAs are supposed to pursue justice in a non-partisan manner. The GSA shouldn't be handing out money to help 'their' candidates. I think the good professor is paranoid... but maybe we should all be a little paranoid.
4.11.2007 3:11pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
Prof. Kerr,

I love that you keep analyzing the story. It goes a long way to counteract the self-righteous musings of Mark Graber over on Balkanization. I know you have no desire to get into a cat fight across blogs, but your comments are very appreciated.
4.11.2007 3:14pm
Stuart Siegel:
Let me see if I get the right. Every phone call in the US is monitored in realtime and each time ""I'm on the terrorist watch list" and "I've been criticizing George Bush" or something simiar is said it goes to live individuals who work for the government. Then with the usual government speedy action the NSA contacts Homeland Security who then evalutates the situation in a matter of days and he is taken off the list for which he was put on as political retaliation. Right ......
4.11.2007 3:15pm
htom (mail):
I think that cirby's right, but a wrong tag would take longer to arrive; I think they just held onto his luggage until it missed the flight.
4.11.2007 3:23pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
My brother and his wife went to the Final Four last week; his wife's luggage was lost on the way down, and delayed for hours before the airline found it. Conspiracy!
4.11.2007 3:27pm
DG:
He wasn't on the no-fly list. He got "SSSS"-ed, which periodically happens to lots of people. Why? one-way flights, last minute reservations, or any other wierdness. Sometimes its just random. When this happens, you can't check in at the curb and have to go to the counter - which is exactly what happened to this guy. You get 30 seconds (if that) of extra screening at the checkpoint. I fly all the time and this happens to me once in a blue moon. The other wierd claim is that his luggage was detained on his return trip. TSA screeners take all of 45 seconds to search a bag, unless they decide to steal something (which does, sadly occur). However, the bag search would have happened on the outbound leg of the trip, when he was "SSSS"-ed, not the return leg. There is a 100% chance his bag was searched outbound and a very small chance it was searched inbound.

I know OK has a lot of respect for this gentleman, but clearly he didn't do any research at all before making his wild claims. The system is well documented by frequent flyers (check out Flyertalk). Is the current airline security system sensible? No. Was this gentleman unfairly persecuted, put on the no-fly list, etc? No, again.

Can a secretary fix this? Actually yes! If your secretary calls your travel agent and tells them to stop booking last minute and one-way flights, things clear up quickly.
4.11.2007 3:29pm
JonC:
Thanks for the shout-out, Prof. Kerr! :-)

Just a minor point: it's worth pointing out that there are not one, but two lists that are potentially at issue here. The first is the No-Fly list. It's unlikely that Prof. Murphy was ever on this list, because, well, he was allowed to fly, both out of and back into Albuquerque. The other list is the "selectee" list. As James Taranto noted recently, "selectees" are


chosen for heightened security by a process that is part random, part based on a variety of factors, most of which are not publicly disclosed, but which are known to include holding a one-way ticket and purchasing a ticket in cash . . . If you have ever had a row of S's appear on your boarding pass, and been taken out of the main line at the security checkpoint to have your bags searched, it has happened to you as well.


That Prof. Murphy was likely on the selectee list, and not the No-Fly list, seems to make it even less likely that he was ever targeted for his speech.
4.11.2007 3:33pm
Adeez (mail):
Spot on Loki. I was wondering how many commenters could continue posting essentially the same comment: Murphy's an idiot, Murphy's an egomaniac, the gov. is too incompetent to do something like this, the gov. is too benevolent to do something like this, etc. HAHAHAHAHA! Eventually the jokes wear thin. And isn't it more fun to disagree sometimes?

I would hope that the brighter, more intellectually honest folks here would instead turn their attention to the fact that our government is doing some very dubious things in the name of protecting us. Like spying on peace groups and the Quakers. Like kicking-out members of political audiences for the messages on their shirts. Like Bush classifying tons of once-public documents. Like the administration doing everything they could to prevent an investigation of September 11th. I think these issues are a tad more important than this one incident. And I hoped that libertarians would agree. The issue here is whether Murphy is paranoid for a legitimate reason, and I certainly think so.

Oh, and as a feeble attempt at preempting the inevitable slander of liberals that's so popular on this site: I also was just as dubious when, say, Bill Clinton began to bomb Iraq contemporaneous with his impeachment.

I would hope that all of us here who care deeply about this nation would be offended by the lies that are constantly being thrown at us by government and its partner in crime, the MSM.

[And I have neither the time nor inclination to cite each one of my factual assertions above. If someone wants to prove they never happened, I'm all ears. For those who care but are unsure, get off VC and look them up.]
4.11.2007 3:36pm
VanMorganJr. (mail):
On behalf of all of us who have had listen to some pompous loud-mouthed windbag complaining about being stuck in the same line as all of the rest of us, kudos to the security personnel who apparently gave him back some of his own.

Here's a more annoying incident. One morning I was waiting to check in for a Delta flight from Huntsville when the guy next to me was allowed to check a suitcase with a nametag that did not match his ticket (he claimed it was borrowed) and was given a boarding pass even though he could not produce a photo ID (he had left his driver's license in his "other wallet"), and even though I complained to the counter personnel that this was exactly the sort of behavior that increased security was supposed to prevent. Frankly, I would prefer to err on the side of caution.
4.11.2007 3:47pm
Karl (mail):

One friend who called me said, "I got put on, too." He used to be [a] fairly high-powered mover and shaker. "How did you get off?," I asked. "I'm partner in large law firm and I told my secretary to get me off," he said. "And I've been able to fly since."

Sir you are polite, so I'll say it - That's not lawyer talk, that's a made-up story.

I've tried several times, as a lawyer, to get a person from a well known overseas family off a no-entry list due to a small (and expunged) faiure to appear violation in the 1980's. The end - I got a letter, contrite and polite, essentially saying the Feds don't have the ability to erase it. Client needs to carry expungement papers, etc. to show US Customs every time he enters.

If one wants off lists you should go to the TSA's redress page:

http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/redress/index.shtm

It's probably easier to get off a no-fly list, federally collected, than a merged state computer record of old court violations!
4.11.2007 3:52pm
JonC:
Loki13, there's an alternative "meta-narrative" to which Prof. Kerr's analysis may be relevant: pointing out the overly credulous media/blog coverage of Prof. Murphy's story in spite of the thin support for his claims, and correcting/countering that coverage.
4.11.2007 3:55pm
David Walser:
I think the best explanation of how Professor Murphy got off the no-fly list is that he was NEVER on the no-fly list to begin with. I don't doubt he thinks he was on the no-fly list. I doubt very much that he was. The no-fly list is set nationally by the FBI. I doubt anyone at the local airport has the authority to over ride it.

Here's what I think happened:

1 - The good professor arrived at the airport and was refused curbside checking of his luggage. He was told he needed to go inside to the ticket counter to check his luggage. There are at least two innocent explanations of this situation. First, he had been selected for one of the "random" security checks that ALL passengers risk. (Exactly how one becomes subject to one of these checks is a secret. Some are selected as part of a purely random lottery -- which is why 90 year old grandmothers are sometimes subject to the searches. Some are selected based on other factors, such as buying a one-way ticket with cash.) If you are selected for the security check, you cannot check your bags curbside because the bags are searched as part of the screening. Second, the professor arrived too late to check his bags curbside. Depending on the airport, it can take longer for bags to make it from the curbside check in to the plane than from the ticket counter to the plane. In such cases, you have to take the bags to the counter or the gate to have them checked. For both of these reasons, I've been denied curbside check in service. Frustrating? Yes, but not part of some national conspiracy to silence me.

When I've been denied curbside check service, the sky caps have not been too willing to offer clear explanations for the denial. They work on tips and seem more interested in working with someone who might be inclined to tip them. The first few times it happened, I was confused. While I don't put myself in Professor Murphy's league, it's not hard to imagine that he, too, was confused and simply misunderstood why he was not allowed curbside check in.

2 - The good professor went to the ticket counter where he believes he was told he was on the no-fly list. I think he misunderstood the explanation. He was selected for an additional security screening and there was no question of his being able to fly -- as long as he would submit to the security check. Questioning why he needed to go through a pat down search may have elicited the response: "If you don't you won't fly." Like all of us, ticket counter agents and employees of the TSA sometimes try to deflect blame for an uncomfortable situation. Any efforts to deflect blame may easily been misunderstood by Professor Murphy as an indication he was on the no-fly list. Complying with the security check, including allowing his baggage to be hand searched, got him on the plane. His heroic efforts, including demonstrating his status as a veteran, only complicated the matter.

3 - On his way home, he was not selected for an additional security check. When I traveled more on business, it was not too unusual for me to be selected for screening either coming or going. It was unusual to be selected for the extra screening on both legs of a flight. When I've asked in a polite manner about the screenings, I've usually gotten no more than a shrug. The screener has never given me any indication that they knew more than that the software selected me.

4 - His luggage was lost. Who among us have not known someone who hasn't had their luggage lost by the airline? It doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen.

While I believe the professor believes he's the victim of some conspiracy. I think that belief tells us more about him than it does the TSA.
4.11.2007 3:56pm
rarango (mail):
Loki and adeez: your passion is noted; on the other hand, some events are simply too funny not to enjoy; I, for one, cannot maintain a high sense of outrage for an extended period of time without acid buildup and its corresponding corrosive effect on my well being; some diversion is welcome. Let us enjoy our comic relief without being scolds. Please? I promise to be more serious tomorrow.
4.11.2007 3:57pm
Montie (mail):
Loki13 and Adeez,

We are talking about a single individual who had to wait 15 minutes in a TSA area rather than the airport lobby. If we are creeping into authoritarianism, it is a bizarre and largely innocuous one.
4.11.2007 4:08pm
loki13 (mail):
JonC-
I would say that the reason that the media is so credulous is that many peopple are beginning to have the same slight paranoia that I am beginning to feel. Had this story happened two years ago, or last year, I doubt it would have received any attention. But today? I *think* the good professor is being paranoid.... but if evidence came out tomorrow that some political hack in the TSA was adding 'enemies of Bush' to a no-fly list, I wouldn't bat an eyelash.

rarango-
I tried... I avoided the topic for at least four threads... but c'mon, the guys being pilloried here. He must feel like, well, an aide to the governor of Wisconsin who said his prosecution was baseless and motivated by electoral reasons to make his boss look bad by a Republican USA under marching orders from Rove and the Wisconsin Republican party so they could manufacture negative ads against his boss.....

...oh, wait.

Again- I think the professor is way off-base. But I think the story (or meta-story) here is a loss of belief in the good-faith of the administration. Two years ago, no one would have believed (except the looney fringe of which I am not a part of) that this Admnistration would use the no-fly list to punish political enemies. Now, I still don't.

But I can't be sure.
4.11.2007 4:11pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I knew his story was baloney the minute I read it. Here in Albuquerque, the Sunport (it isn't called the airport here) always people singled out for extra security checks. I have been singled out twice in the last few years. So what? Our airport is the least-busy airport I have ever been through. And, if he took an afternnon flight, the odds of getting singled out at that time are greatly increased. Unlike leaving, say Philly, the security line in the afternoon here is not bad at all.

If Professor Murphy really thinks that there are people whose job it is to monitor his activities, then I feel sorry for him. In the old days, we used to call people like that paranoid and have them thrown into Byberry or a place like that. Now, they are treated as sages, because, as we all know, Bush is monitoring everyone for everything.

Oh, and if President Bush is reading this: Get back to work and do something important!!
4.11.2007 4:40pm
NickM (mail) (www):

I would say that the reason that the media is so credulous is that many peopple are beginning to have the same slight paranoia that I am beginning to feel. Had this story happened two years ago, or last year, I doubt it would have received any attention. But today? I *think* the good professor is being paranoid.... but if evidence came out tomorrow that some political hack in the TSA was adding 'enemies of Bush' to a no-fly list, I wouldn't bat an eyelash.


The idea that some political hack is adding people to a no-fly list because of their political activity isn't insane.

The idea that announcing on your cellular phone that you have been placed on that list so the NSA computers will pick it up and remove you from the list worked for you is insane.

Nick
4.11.2007 4:59pm
princeton1968 (mail):
As a former student of Prof. Murphy, I have to express some exasperation about the general tone of these comments. It's not as though he rushed to tell this story in a New York Times op-ed. He waited nearly a month, and only hesitantly offered the account to the moderator of a listserv for political scientists.

I think it's both especially telling and amusing that here on the Volokh blog, the comments about Prof. Murphy and his account are almost unanimously derisive. You all seem to have learned well from Cheney and Co: When there's a story that expresses criticism about a *secret* gov't program, just attack the person complaining and not the gov't for its introduction (and likely incompetent AND overreaching administration) of that program. Is this the 21st century version of libertarianism? Or what? Give me a break....
4.11.2007 5:03pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
"I'm partner in large law firm and I told my secretary to get me off." Funny.
4.11.2007 5:07pm
Adeez (mail):
Hey Princeton: welcome to the Volokh Conspiracy.
4.11.2007 5:15pm
dearieme:
Do you in the US use the expression "mad as a hatter"?
4.11.2007 5:16pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Princeton1968... If Professor Murphy was merely criticizing the "no-fly" list, I don't think any of the Volokh bloggers would have "attacked" him. However, he was using his personal anecdote as evidence to bolster his criticisms of the government program, so it's entirely appropriate to examine the validity of his anecdote. If he doesn't want his anecdote scrutinized, he shouldn't use it to try to bolster his case. And his anecdote is loopy, as I notice you don't really even try to deny. Nobody has suggested that, because Professor Murphy's anecdote is, to be charitable, less than plausible, it therefore means that the no-fly list is a good program.

If a released UFO experimentee demands that the government unclassify all alien autopsy footage, must we immediately start criticizing the government for keeping the alien autopsy footage secret, without first discussing the mental stability of said experimentee?
4.11.2007 5:24pm
wooga:
"How did you get off?," I asked. "I'm partner in large law firm and I told my secretary to get me off," he said.


My firm has a policy against that sort of behavior.
4.11.2007 5:25pm
JohnAnnArbor (www):
Any normal person who thinks the NSF cares about their phone calls is paranoid. They don't. In fact, they COULDN'T. It's not physically possible to do broad-spectrum monitoring like Murphy alleges.

And if he thinks he himself is being targeted, well, the NSF has bigger fish than self-important professors to fry.
4.11.2007 5:30pm
wooga:
You all seem to have learned well from Cheney and Co: When there's a story that expresses criticism about a *secret* gov't program, just attack the person complaining

Princeton1968, as I explained in an earlier VC post, calling Prof. Murphy self-centered and paranoid is not an ad hominem, but rather is directly related to the substance of Murphy's claims (as it provides an explanation). But thanks for illustrating my point about how people screaming about bushitlerburtonchimp tend to lack a grasp of basic logical principles and 'nuance'.
4.11.2007 5:31pm
David Matthews (mail):
In 2003, I was singled out for special screening at the Albuquerque airport. The other person singled out happened to also be the only black person in the queue at the time. After undergoing the extra searching, he made a comment to me about "of course they'd pick the only black man." I recognized his West African (turns out Ghanaian) accent, and responded with, "sort of reminds me of the treatment I used to get from security as the only white guy at African check-points. But I hope you didn't try to bribe your way through...." This lightened his mood considerably and was good for a few laughs; then we sat in the bar and had a few cold ones waiting for our flights. I don't know how we were picked; the Ghanaian's first name was Hassan, so maybe it was similar to some "person of interest;" mine, well, I'm guessing the more famous "Dave Matthews" is not a special friend of the administration, so I could concoct some sort of conspiracy theory. Most likely, though, it was just luck of the draw, or the fact that I'd booked on short notice, or that Albuquerque security has plenty of time on its hands.

This professor? Classic Bush Derangement Syndrome, seems to me. The larger question of why the epidemic of BDS, whether it's based on actual widespread abuses by the Administration, or a fixation on a few abuses, or liberal hysteria, or.... will (unless far more conclusive evidence of widespread abuse appears, assuming it exists) continue to depend largely on personal political perspective, and I doubt will be solved in this thread.

I recall amazing Clinton Derangement Syndrome in the 90s, with reports of Clinton using Y2K to declare "marshall law" (it was usually spelled that way), and imminent black helicopter invasions, and speculation about the "mysterious" and "convenient" death of Ron Brown, and the like. On the other hand, I have two old high school classmates whose FBI files were among those improperly collected by Messrs. Marceca and Livingstone (we only graduated about 100 from our small midwestern public high school, so that's a very unlikely -- though totally coincidental -- percentage), and there were some very believable stories of politically motivated IRS audits during the Clinton years, and probably quite a few other examples of politically-motivated abuses of authority, so it wasn't that the C.D.S. was entirely baseless, only mostly so.

Certainly, given the actions taken in the name of the "GWOT," there will be far more fuel for BDS than there ever was for CDS -- one would expect to see a more active (and therefore possibly abusive) government in a time of war than in a time of peace (and regardless of your own views, this administration has made clear that it sees itself as being in a full-scale global war.)
4.11.2007 5:47pm
OrinKerr:
Princeton1968,

Can you identify what I have said about Professor Murphy that is derisive? I have a great deal of respect for Professor Murphy's work, as I have mentioned a few times. He was also still a highly respected Professor when I went to Princeton (I was class of 1993), although I never took his class. Still, I'm not sure what you expect me to do when it seems that his judgment is off in this case. I don't think it's very helpful to believe someone's guesses as to the truth just because that person is in a position of authority - regardless of whether that position of authority is the Vice Presidency or the McCormick Professorship at Princeton.
4.11.2007 5:50pm
Random Commenter:
"Again- I think the professor is way off-base. But I think the story (or meta-story) here is a loss of belief in the good-faith of the administration."

Hats off for staying relentlessly on-message, regardless of what's going on around you.
4.11.2007 5:54pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Do you in the US use the expression "mad as a hatter"?

Yes. And it fits here.
4.11.2007 6:03pm
JRL:

[And I have neither the time nor inclination to cite each one of my factual assertions above. If someone wants to prove they never happened, I'm all ears. For those who care but are unsure, get off VC and look them up.]


/typical
4.11.2007 6:11pm
Some Guy (mail):
Actually, American Airlines has two lists. There's the government's "no fly" list, and American Airlines' own "we hate this guy so let's piss in his coffee every chance we get."

I think I've been on the second list for two decades, now.
4.11.2007 6:27pm
Retread (mail):
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. A c-worker was on The List for a while when he was traveling every week and it made check-in a bigger pain in the *ss than it usually is. He kept complaining and eventually was dropped from the list. We chalked it up to clerical error and his was probably not the only time it happened. If suppression of was the goal there are much better ways of accomplishing it.
4.11.2007 6:51pm
Rex (mail):
I have been targeted as well. Whenever I attempt to wear my tinfoil hat through security, I am invariably searched by government agents. They just want me to take off the hat so the government mind-beams can get me!
4.11.2007 6:59pm
Getting off the lists is easy:
You go to this URL and fill out the form.
http://www.dhs.gov/xtrvlsec/programs/gc_1169676919316.shtm

If you also contact your congressional office you can also get these sorts of issues expedited. I used to know a staffer in Sensenbrenner's office who worked to help resolve these sorts of issues.

When the program started, DHS was understaffed to handle all of the false-positives&complaints. Now, I understand they take this very seriously, have a large amount of staff, and try to process errors quickly. This has been true ever since some members of Congress got caught-up in the watchlist driftnet.

I think the critical remark is "I flew back without having trouble getting a boarding pass. But when I was in Princeton, I had breakfast with former student — a Republican congressman". This makes it quite reasonable that a call from the Congressman's office was made. And it is not out of the ordinary for this to take place.

A friend of mine ended up on the watchlist in 2004 and he was helped by someone in his congressman's office--and this person was not anyone famous or remarkable.
4.11.2007 7:18pm
Enoch:
Any normal person who thinks the NSF cares about their phone calls is paranoid. They don't. In fact, they COULDN'T. It's not physically possible to do broad-spectrum monitoring like Murphy alleges.

People think the National Science Foundation is trying to track their phone calls? =)
4.11.2007 7:38pm
red (mail):
I've been targeted too. I think its the hurricane generator that I have carried. Its nuculear powered.

Seriously, that politically motivated prosecution in Milwuakee should have been done sooner, but the two-decades entrenched do-nothing Democratic county prosecutor has made a specialty of not prosecuting (among other things - voter fraud) Another example was vote buying from homeless people by a major Democratic money donor.

In case anyone is interested, some thugs with direct connections to the Milwaukee democratic party (son of one of our congresspeople) sliced the tires of Republican get-out-the-vote vehicles on election day. These are felony crimes. If the local prosecutor had not drug his heels with the prosecution, there would have been no proximity to the next election cycle.

Check e-bay. I have tin hats and hurrican generators for sale.
4.11.2007 7:51pm
KeithK (mail):
Princeton1968: When someone makes ridiculous statements he should expected to be ridiculed for them.
4.11.2007 7:57pm
Forbes (mail):
This comment thread has been a delight to read this afternoon, especially from those few that find Prof. Murphy's anecdotal story to be evidence of creeping authoritarianism. Your greatest wish, probably, is--if only the government could be so efficient.

The rest of us thank the heavens that in spite of the obvious inefficiencies (for lack of a better word), such security measures are only an inconvenience. But then most government services are offered in such a manner as to be an inconvenience--it's the only way to curb demand.

And as a middle-aged, slightly overweight, gray-haired, blue-eyed man, who has been patted-down (frisked), I'm just glad they don't ask us to fly naked--as if that would prove the fairness, by treating everyone absolutely the same way, with no random screening involved.

Oh, and good luck on that project demanding your assertions be proved wrong. Here's a hint: You've got that entirely backwards. I hope you don't "practice" law. Cheers.
4.11.2007 8:13pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
Everyone should really read Mark Graber's update on balkanization. Its quite a read. ACtually, I'll post it here.

"UPDATE: My sense of the Murphy debate on the blogosphere is that the dominant positions are one of two extremes. Either this was part of a systematic effort to harass opponents of the Bush administration or this was entirely random. Neither seems fully true to the facts for reasons persons on one side point out about the other. Let me suggest a third alternative, which seems to best fit the facts (although hardly any explanation is perfect). I think there is a fair degree of evidence that there was some targeting going on, given both the initial stop and the baggage lost on the return flight. On the other hand, one thing we know about secretive processes is that people can sometimes get on the wrong list simply because someone has a grudge against them. Needless to say, the FBI has hardly been immune to this problem. Consider how a false tip from Walter Winchell led to an extensive investigation of the entertainer Josephine Baker (see http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/jbaker.htm --thanks to MaryDudziak for this tip). So consider the possibility that someone, upset with Professor Murphy's talk at Princeton, either put him on the list or made a complaint to the FBI. Put differently, there is randomness going on, but a randomness that is enabling citizens to use and abuse government to harass persons whose politics or persona they do not like."
4.11.2007 8:13pm
neurodoc:
When there's a story that expresses criticism about a *secret* gov't program, just attack the person complaining and not the gov't for its introduction (and likely incompetent AND overreaching administration) of that program.
Can we have a show of hands to tell us how many see this as a story about "the gov't" (reflective of government programs generally operate) and how many see this as a story about our current government, in particular the Bush administration and/or Congress. Do those who see it as the latter (Bush and/or the last couple of Congresses) think "no fly" and other post-9/11 domestic security initiatives will be very different come 1/21/09 or as soon as a new prez and post-elections Congress can effet changes? (Personally, I tend to favor the "gov't" in general explanation rather than decidedly Bush/Cheney, and I think security measures will be least affected by the next elections, whoever wins.)
4.11.2007 8:16pm
neurodoc:
Because Murphy's luggage was lost/mishandled by the airline, it is more likely that he was indeed "targeted"?!
4.11.2007 8:19pm
Henri LeCompte (mail):
As a shrinker of heads, I can confidently diagnose paranoia when I see it. What is more distressing than this one man's brush with mental illness, is the fact that this sort of thinking is becoming fairly prevalent (at least among people who post messages on left-leaning web sites).

Actually, it has been kinda creeping me out for the past several years. We all can get a little carried away with our political posturing, but the normal bonds of responsible rhetoric and common sense have been steadily eroding for some folks ever since Bush #2 entered the White House. Which leads me to the source of my puzzlement-- why Bush?? I mean, he seems like a very run of the mill, somewhat right of center, middlebrow, politician son of a politician. I don't mean to be harsh, but it strikes me as, well, weird, that all this animus is being focused on such a bland, unremarkable public figure. It's just... weird.

Oh, and back to this particular case-- does it strike anyone else as especially pathetic that this gentleman actually believes that you can just tell your legal secretary to "get you off" the no-fly list? I mean that is way beyond Bush #1 and the check-out scanner for being totally, radically, out-of-touch! In fact, the whole incident creates a perfect centerpiece for those inclined to see Ivy League "elites" as living in an ivory tower, free from any contamination by the real world of working schlubs. I mean, you have to ask yourself, "Is this the way they really see the world, those academic elites who rarely leave the sandbox of the college campus?"

I think they need to force the Princeton faculty to "go on safari" to the real world a little more often.
4.11.2007 8:36pm
colagirl (mail):
My roommate's luggage was lost a year or so ago on her way back from visiting her family in Taiwan. I should tell her that she was placed on the "no-fly" list and that's why her luggage was lost. Unfortunately she doesn't have a secretary she can order to have her taken off it....
4.11.2007 9:33pm
wooga:
Henri, I think David Matthews made a good point about the paranoia during the Clinton years, which seemed to manifest itself (in the media) as folks in Montana building tire-walled compounds to hide from Janet Reno. There are always extreme libertarian/anarchist people freaked out by the gov't, but it's particularly bizarre to now see it coming from the traditionally statist left.

The right wing got a release through the rise of talk radio, and the left wing gets a release through the web echo chamber. The question remains: the right eventually ousted Clinton and got a sense of vindication. What happens if the GOP retains the presidency in the next election? Your business will be booming!
4.11.2007 9:36pm
Victor Erimita (mail):
DG has it right. Murphy was SSSed. I'm on the no fly list. Or rather more precisely, my name, which I evidently share with someone TSA is actually interested in, is on the list. After 2-1/2 years of working with TSA, lawyers, my Congressman, etc. I can tell you that normal people don't get removed their names from the list. Because "their" name is also the other guy's name. Get it? I'm on the list. My neighbor's kid is on the list. Half the friggin' country is on the list. And the other half will get SSSed eventually. Like my kid, age 11, did.

Now, the part of this thread I love is the posts from Loki and Adeez. You see, it isn't about what did or did not happoen. No, it's about the "meta-narrative." Which they seem to define as "whatever I imagine is going on, regardless of mere facts." This term, of course, is descended from French linguistics analysts, appropriated and recycled by American literary critics, popularized by the likes of Stanley Fish, former head of the...drum roll...Duke University English Department, and now promiscuously used by every academic too lazy or narcissistic to care about facts or the truth. It didn't matter to the 80 Duke professors who signed that infamous petition condemning the 3 lacrosse players who were belatedly exonerated today from rape charges. No, what mattered, was the "meta-narrative." Which was that all white males are criminals and all black females are victims, so facts be damned.

Just, so, it matters not whether Prof. Murphy is on the watch list or why, only that he believes he is on the watch list. If he believes it, it must be so, or might as well be so. And if that makes no sense to you, it is because your intelligence is too pedestrian to understand the sublime concept of the "meta-narrative," as Loki and Adeez have so kindly pointed out to us. This is what academia is breeding, dear friends. I don't have fantasies or paranoid delusions based on my ideology. I have meta-narratives.
4.11.2007 9:44pm
Tom Maguire (mail):
Can you say "Paranoid"

In the current environment, paranoia is so common that there is a word for it - "paranormal".

I think.

I like the idea that supermodels are removing him from watch lists.
4.11.2007 10:33pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
What happened to all the Gulags in North Dakota that AshKKKroft was supposedly building for these Murphy types?

The best Chimpymcbushitler can do now is lose the guy's luggage for a few hours?

How sad.
4.11.2007 11:18pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
Oh, and perfectly stated, Victor; I do hope you're not up for tenure...
4.11.2007 11:20pm
Mark Field (mail):
Nice meta-narrative, Victor.
4.12.2007 12:08am
Elliot123 (mail):
I wonder what Murphy thinks his effect on the administration has been? Does the guy really think he is so important that secret agents connive to delay his luggage.
4.12.2007 12:50am
Milhouse (www):

it's true that Professor Murphy is an academic giant; he's he author of many major and important works, including one of my favorite books, Wiretapping on Trial.


Orin, suppose that instead of this incident, Murphy had announced that he'd been kidnapped by a UFO and anally probed, or that the moon landings were faked by the ZOG. Wouldn't that lead you to reevaluate the respect you had for his intelligence and academic achievements? Wouldn't it lead you to reevaluate the book, and question any assertion it made that wasn't solidly backed by verifiable facts? Wouldn't you be embarrassed to quote as a reliable source a book written by a lunatic? Or might you perhaps put the news down to incipient senility, and continue to maintain your respect for the man he used to be?

In any case, should this incident, and his increasingly wild statements about it, not trigger a similar reevaluation?
4.12.2007 4:59am
Scott Wood (mail):
Here is an alternate meta-narrative: The Bush Administration is regularly accused of doing all sorts of horrible things. I personally have no way of validating the horribleness of these things. Rather, I pretty much have to rely on the judgment of the reporter that, say, the firing of the US Attorneys really was politically motivated, as opposed to, say, being the results of a data mining expedition that managed to, as all data mining expeditions will, find superficially suspicious-looking activities.

When I see the Walter Murphy story, which seems pretty obviously a case of an over-active imagination combined with a persecution complex, getting the traction that it has, I have to wonder about the judgment of the people complaining about the US Attorneys scandal, too.
4.12.2007 7:37am
ed o:
I think that the academics bask in the aroma of "academic freedom" so much that they think that any pronouncement, no matter how outlandish or just plain stupid, made by an academic should be greeted with serious looks and nods.
4.12.2007 12:25pm
Insignificant Dallasite:
I think Murphy is getting the last laugh on all of you who are taking this seriously. How did all you very bright people miss that fact that this was all merely a very elaborate setup for a slghtly off-color joke?

"How did you get off?," I asked. "I'm partner in large law firm and I told my secretary to get me off," he said. "And I've been able to fly since."
4.12.2007 12:43pm
ed o:
nope, as an academic, if he made those pronouncements on anal probing, we would all have to nod gravely and credit him for writing a great book a long time ago. we certainly couldn't entertain the thought that he is losing it or is a publicity hog.
4.12.2007 1:06pm
Just passing through:
This whole incident kind of reminds me of the foiling of the London airline terrorist plot last August 2006, and how many on the left tried to create connections between it and Lieberman and the elections in America, as if the British success was part of a larger conspiracy to further Bush-Rovian agendas here in America. Sometimes things happen, and there just is no larger conspiracy.
4.12.2007 1:32pm