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The Extraordinary Mrs. Shipley: How the United States Controlled International Travel Before the Age of Terrorism


Jeffrey Kahn


Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law

May 11, 2010

SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 60

Abstract:     
Terrorist watchlists used to restrict travel into and out of the United States owe their conceptual origins to Mrs. Ruth B. Shipley, the Chief of the State Department’s Passport Division from 1928 to 1955. Mrs. Shipley was one of the most powerful people in the federal government for almost thirty years, but she is virtually unknown today. She had the unreviewable discretion to determine who could leave the United States, for how long, and under what conditions.

This article examines how Mrs. Shipley exercised her power through a detailed study of original documents obtained from the National Archives. It then compares her work to the current watchlisting procedures employed by the Terrorist Screening Center and Department of Homeland Security. The article concludes that today’s so-called “No Fly List” used to deny boarding passes to suspect travelers resonates with Mrs. Shipley’s passport power, which was rightly scaled back by the courts and Congress as incompatible with our constitutional values.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 67

Keywords: National Security, Constitutional Law, Legal History

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Date posted: May 11, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Kahn, Jeffrey, The Extraordinary Mrs. Shipley: How the United States Controlled International Travel Before the Age of Terrorism (May 11, 2010). SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 60. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1604602 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1604602

Contact Information

Jeffrey Kahn (Contact Author)
Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States
(214) 768-2792 (Phone)
(214) 768-4330 (Fax)
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