The Extraordinary Mrs. Shipley: How the United States Controlled International Travel Before the Age of Terrorism
70 Pages Posted: 11 May 2010 Last revised: 10 Jun 2016
Date Written: May 11, 2010
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.
Keywords: National Security, Constitutional Law, Legal History
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