Jeffrey Kahn’s “Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists”

I’ve been meaning to recommend guest blogger Jeffrey Kahn’s recently published book “Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists” (University of Michigan Press 2013).

Today, when a single person can turn an airplane into a guided missile, no one objects to rigorous security before flying. But can the state simply declare some people too dangerous to travel, ever and anywhere? Does the Constitution protect a fundamental right to travel? Should the mode of travel (car, plane, or boat) or itinerary (domestic or international) make a constitutional difference? This book explores the legal and policy questions raised by government travel restrictions, from passports and rubber stamps to computerized terrorist watchlists.

In tracing the history and scope of U.S. travel regulations, Jeffrey Kahn begins with the fascinating story of Mrs. Ruth Shipley, a federal employee who almost single-handedly controlled access to passports during the Cold War. Kahn questions how far national security policies should go and whether the government should be able to declare some individuals simply too dangerous to travel. An expert on constitutional law, Kahn argues that U.S. citizens’ freedom to leave the country and return is a fundamental right, protected by the Constitution.

“With authoritative detail, this elegantly written and constructed book takes on an overlooked travesty of contemporary counterterrorism—easy use of the terrorist watchlist to stop Americans from coming home. To reconstruct our right to travel, Kahn brilliantly polishes an undervalued gem of the Constitution—the Citizenship Clause. A necessary read.”

—Susan Ginsburg, Senior Counsel and Team Leader, 9/11 Commission

“Despite an avalanche of writing about post-9/11 security policies, far too little attention has been paid to the increasingly important world of watchlists and their impact on the ability to travel. Jeff Kahn has filled this gap with a definitive account that deftly blends historical, legal, and policy analysis. And he has done it with real narrative flair. Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost will be required—and thoroughly enjoyable—reading for anyone interested in the intersection of data, security, and liberties.”

 —Robert M. Chesney, University of Texas School of Law

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