karl_lembke (karl_lembke) wrote,

Targeted for his politics?

(Warning: Political content.)

This one from the Wall Street Journal "Best of the Web" blog:

Left-wing blogs have been abuzz for a couple of days over a post by Mark Graber, a professor of law and government at the University of Maryland. Graber prints a story he received from Walter F. Murphy, a professor emeritus of jurisprudence at Princeton who now lives in New Mexico, about a bad experience Murphy had last month with airport security in Albuquerque. Murphy alleges that the treatment he received was politically motivated.
When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years.
I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said.

I'm sure the left wing blots are abuzz, if not atwitter. This kind of thing confirms their worst fears about the encroaching BusHitler dictatorship. But how likely is the professor's perception to be reality?

As luck would have it, Kip Hawley, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration visited The Wall Street Journal's office this morning, so we showed him a copy of Graber's post.
According to Hawley, the only list a passenger might be on that would prevent him from boarding a plane is the "no fly" list. Since Murphy did ultimately get on the plane, he self-evidently was not on that list. Hawley says it is possible that someone with the same name was on the list; such an error befell Ted Kennedy in 2004.

More likely, though, Murphy was a "selectee"--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.

This has happened to us on numerous occasions. 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. Selectees, Hawley explained to us, are not allowed to check in at curbside but must go to the ticket counter, as in Murphy's case.
There are two problems with [his account]. First, federal terrorist watch lists are compiled not by political appointees but by career professionals at the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, who, according to Hawley, would balk at any effort to list people for political reasons. Second, airline clerks have no way of knowing why a passenger is a selectee or on the no-fly list; they know only that he is. If the clerk actually said what Murphy claims he did, he was either joking or expressing his own (ill-informed) political opinion.
It is true, Hawley said, that TSA agents open the luggage of all selectees (the word "ransack" seems another case of the clerk editorializing). As for Murphy's suspicion that his lost bag on the otherwise trouble-free return flight was taken as some sort of political retaliation, Hawley says: "Give me a break."
But if Murphy's account of the facts is accurate, what happened here was out of the ordinary only inasmuch as the airline clerk--not a government employee--made a sensational and untrue claim, a claim that Murphy himself was eager to believe.

Now, stop and think about this: We are expected to believe that Murphy was "singled out" for his political views. But this credulous chorus of concurrence proves there is nothing singular about those views. Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall, Matt Stoller and Rod Dreher are among many thousands upon thousands of people who have given speeches, written articles or otherwise publicly declaimed against President Bush.

If the Bush administration were trying to stifle dissent, Murphy's experience would be typical, and Bush's harshest critics would be offering their own stories of airport-security woe--or they would be silenced. Instead, they rush to affirm Murphy's interpretation of his own experience. It is what they want to believe, even though it runs counter to their own experience.

Some people are so blinded by hatred, they're gullible enough to believe anything.
Tags: politics

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