There is smoke without fire.

I haven’t commented on this recent item floating around the blogosphere. An excerpt, for facts:

“On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving.”

“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.”

That’s from Walter F. Murphy, professor emeritus of jurisprudence at Princeton. I didn’t give it much thought as anything more than another data point. To be frank, I believed it and filed it with all the other clear transgressions of our government under the Bush Administration. I shouldn’t have.

After reading today’s Best of the Web column in Opinion Journal, I’m convinced that this is the most plausible explanation:

According to [TSA Administrator Kip] 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.

On our recent flight to Tampa for Spring Training, Danielle couldn’t check-in online. When we got to the ticket counter, the representative informed us Danielle had been randomly selected for further screening, requiring her to check in with an airline rep. Annoying and worthy of its own post about its validity and effectiveness in fighting terrorism, but our experience conforms to what Mr. Hawley told the Wall Street Journal’s editors. Never forget Occam’s Razor, I guess.

This entry wouldn’t be any fun, though, if I didn’t mock the Journal’s editors and their rabid belief in the competence and benevolence of government under the Bush Administration. For example:

There are two problems with this. 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.

Career professionals would never compromise the integrity of government to appease an agenda. Nope. Never happens. (Do I need to embed links into the last two sentences? No, I think you get the point of the device Feel free to suggest links in the comments, though.)

Which leads to this:

Some people are so blinded by hatred, they’re gullible enough to believe anything.

Such political blindness cuts both ways. Be careful who you accuse of being gullible, lest you look stupid when your attack dog bites you on the ass one day.