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Criticizing Bush Makes Prof a "Terrorist"?
Renowned Princeton Scholar on Terror Watch List
Walter F. Murphy, renowned Constitutional law professor emeritus at Princeton and retired Marine colonel decorated for heroism during the Korean War, was informed that he was on the Terror Watch list when he tried to check-in for a flight in early March.

The story he recounts of an exchange with representatives of American Airlines after he was denied a boarding pass is enough to chill the soul of any American who values their Constitutional right to free expression.

Thanks to Mark Graber over at Balkinization for posting the full text of a letter by Prof. Murphy describing his experience, and hat tip to Josh Marshall at for picking up on it first.

"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. "

"After carefully examining my credentials, the clerk asked if he could take them to TSA officials. I agreed. He returned about ten minutes later and said I could have a boarding pass, but added: "I must warn you, they're going to ransack your 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."

It should be noted that the airline representative may have been speaking carelessly, without full knowledge of what he was saying.

Speaking from my own personal experience, after having been "randomly selected" for additional security screening on perhaps a half-dozen consecutive flights, I asked a TSA official observing my search why it always seemed to happen to me. I was told, "The names come down to us from Washington. We don't know why."

It was clear the security screening wasn't so random, but also obvious those on the ground at the airport would have no reason to know the reason why I was targeted. I have my own list of theories, though none of them involve donating money to an Islamist charity, spending time in a Pakistani training camp, or otherwise associating with those who wish to mount a terrorist attack against the US.

The last time I was selected for additional security screening was on Christmas eve 2005. I was flying back to DC from San Diego after having visited a former FBI informant and al Qaeda associate in a Mexican prison, and this time the screening actually registered some form of possible explosives residue on my laptop. Ironically, I haven't been stopped again since.


Wounded Warrior Project