Author: Jeffrey Kahn

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A Very Brief History of the No-Fly List

In the aftermath of the near catastrophe aboard Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day, Washington is clamoring for more names, faster, on the No-Fly List.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checks each potential traveler’s name against this list of persons deemed too dangerous to fly.  This recent scare seems to have flipped the conventional wisdom about the No-Fly List.  Fairly or not, many used to perceive the list as too big and too prone to false positives (remember Cat Stevens?).  The new conventional wisdom seems to be different: fill ‘er up.

Have you ever wondered where this No-Fly List came from and how it came to look the way it does?  What does “dangerous” mean?  Who decides?  Media reports about the No-Fly List led me to write my article in the UCLA Law Review, which explored the constitutional questions underneath those policy ones.  Here is a very brief history of the No-Fly List to give you some perspective on the White House report scheduled for release today.  I’ll conclude with a few questions that will be covered in future posts.

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The Month Ahead: War, Rights, Travel

Sometimes opportunity just comes knocking at your door.  That’s sure how it felt when Danielle invited me to be a guest at Concurring Opinions this month.  But I never imagined that, on my first day as a guest blogger, opportunity would come knocking again, this time with the blogging equivalent of a welcome basket.

That’s how it felt to read Michael Kinsley’s op-ed in the New York Times last night as I contemplated my first post (What’s Our Line? N.Y. Times, 1/5/10 at A21 NY edition).  His eight-paragraph pitch to stay true to America’s first principles of justice (at least, as he sees them) seemed a custom-made opportunity to lay out my blogging agenda for the month.  Kinsley’s essay was a great little read for me not because of his too broad conclusion (“We have nothing to be ashamed of, little to fear and much to be proud of in choosing to err on the side of treating captured foreign terrorists as we would treat any upstanding American who tried to blow up an airplane full of people.”), but mainly for the odd path he took to reach it.  It was opportunity knocking again because he teed up several issues that interest me.  (A mixed metaphor there?  Nevermind, that train has sailed.)

Three issues jumped out in particular:

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