The Info List - McCarran Internal Security Act

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The Internal Security Act of 1950, 64 Stat. 987 (Public Law 81-831), also known as the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 or the McCarran Act, after its principal sponsor Sen. Pat McCarran (D-Nevada), is a United States federal law. Congress enacted it over President Harry Truman's veto.


1 Provisions 2 Legislative history 3 Constitutionality 4 Use by the U.S. military 5 Amended 6 Fictional reimagining 7 See also 8 References 9 External links

Provisions[edit] Its titles were I: Subversive Activities Control (Subversive Activities Control Act) and II: Emergency Detention (Emergency Detention Act of 1950).[2] The Act required Communist organizations to register with the United States Attorney General and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate persons suspected of engaging in subversive activities or otherwise promoting the establishment of a "totalitarian dictatorship," either fascist or communist. Members of these groups could not become citizens and in some cases were prevented from entering or leaving the country. Citizens found in violation could lose their citizenship in five years. The Act also contained an emergency detention statute, giving the President the authority to apprehend and detain "each person as to whom there is a reasonable ground to believe that such person probably will engage in, or probably will conspire with others to engage in, acts of espionage or sabotage."[3] It tightened alien exclusion and deportation laws and allowed for the detention of dangerous, disloyal, or subversive persons in times of war or "internal security emergency". The Act made picketing a federal courthouse a felony[4] if intended to obstruct the court system or influence jurors or other trial participants.[5] Legislative history[edit] Several key sections of the Act were taken from the earlier Mundt–Ferguson Communist Registration Bill, which Congress had failed to pass.[6] It included language that Sen. Mundt had introduced several times before without success aimed at punishing a federal employee from passing information "classified by the President (or by the head of any such department, agency, or corporation with the approval of the President) as affecting the security of the United States" to "any representative of a foreign government or to any officer or member of a Communist organization". He told a Senate hearing that it was a response to what the House Un-American Activities Committee
House Un-American Activities Committee
(HUAC) had learned when investigating "the so-called pumpkin papers case, the espionage activities in the Chambers-Hiss case, the Bentley case, and others."[7] President Harry Truman
Harry Truman
vetoed it on September 22, 1950, and sent Congress a lengthy veto message in which he criticized specific provisions as "the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798," a "mockery of the Bill of Rights" and a "long step toward totalitarianism".[8][9] The House overrode the veto without debate by a vote of 286–48 the same day. The Senate overrode his veto the next day after "a twenty-two hour continuous battle" by a vote of 57–10. Thirty-one Republicans and 26 Democrats voted in favor, while five members of each party opposed it.[10] Constitutionality[edit]

Civil libertarians and radical political activists considered the McCarran Act to be a dangerous and unconstitutional infringement of political liberty, as exemplified in this 1961 poster.

The Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
was initially deferential towards the Internal Security Act. For example, in Galvan v. Press,[11] the Court upheld the deportation of a Mexican alien on the basis that he had briefly been a member of the Communist Party from 1944 to 1946, even though such membership had been lawful at that time (and had been declared retroactively illegal by the Act). As McCarthyism
faded into history, the Court adopted a more skeptical approach towards the Act. The 1964 decision in Aptheker v. Secretary of State ruled unconstitutional Section 6, which prevented any member of a communist party from using or obtaining a passport. In 1965, the Court voted 8–0 in Albertson v. Subversive Activities Control Board to invalidate the Act's requirement that members of the Communist Party were to register with the government. It held that the information which party members were required to submit could form the basis of their prosecution for being party members, which was then a crime, and therefore deprived them of their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.[12] In 1967, the act's provision prohibiting communists from working for the federal government or at defense facility was also struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the First Amendment's right to freedom of association in United States v. Robel.[13] Use by the U.S. military[edit] The U.S. military continues to use 50 U.S.C. § 797, citing it in U.S. Army regulation AR 190-11 in support of allowing installation commanders to regulate privately owned weapons on army installations. An Army message known as an ALARACT[14] states "senior commanders have specific authority to regulate privately owned weapons, explosives, and ammunition on army installations." The ALARACT refers to AR 190-11 and public law (section 1062 of Public Law 111-383, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011); AR 190-11 in turn cites the McCarran Internal Security Act (codified as 50 USC 797). The ALARACT reference is a truncated version of the public law.[15] Amended[edit] Part of the Act was repealed by the Non-Detention Act
Non-Detention Act
of 1971. For example, violation of 50 U.S.C. § 797 (Section 21 of "the Internal Security Act of 1950"), which concerns security of military bases and other sensitive installations, may be punishable by a prison term of up to one year.[16] The part of the act codified as 50 U.S.C. § 798 has been repealed in its entirety for violating the First Amendment.[17] The now-powerless Subversive Activities Control Board was abolished by Congress in 1972.[18] Fictional reimagining[edit] The 1971 pseudo documentary film Punishment Park
Punishment Park
speculated what might have happened if Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
had enforced the McCarran Act against members of the anti-war movement, black power movement, the feminist movement, and others. See also[edit]

Alien Registration Act Espionage
Act of 1917 Hatch Act of 1939 Mundt–Ferguson Communist Registration Bill of 1950 McCarran-Walter Act McCarthyism Second Red Scare Smith Act


^ Internal Security Act ^ The Full Text of the McCarran Internal Security Act, accessed June 25, 2012 ^ Title II, Section 103 ^ New York Times: "M'Grath to Press New Curbs on Reds," September 25, 1950, accessed June 25, 2012 ^ Title I, Section 31 ^ Everything2: The Nixon-Mundt Bill Retrieved 2012-04-10 ^ Justia: Scarbeck v. U.S. paragraphs 20-1, accessed June 25, 2012 ^ Harry S. Truman, Veto of the Internal Security Bill, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. ^ "Text of President's Veto Message Vetoing the Communist-Control Bill". New York Times. September 23, 1950. Retrieved April 23, 2013.  ^ Trussel, C.P. (September 24, 1950). "Red Bill Veto Beaten, 57-10, By Senators". New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2013.  ^ Galvan v. Press, 347 U.S. 522 (1954), ^ Belknap, Michael R. (2004). The Vinson Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 171.  ^ Belknap, Michael R. (2005). The Supreme Court Under Earl Warren, 1953-1969. University of South Carolina. p. 79.  ^ ALARACT 333/2011 DTG R 311939Z AUG 11 ^ Public Law. "111-383" (PDF). section 1062. 111th Congress.  ^ United States Department of Defense DoD Directive 5200.8, "Security of DoD Installations and Resources", 25 April 1991, retrieved August 26, 2005. Archived July 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. ^ "50 USC 798". Findlaw.  ^ http://cisupa.proquest.com/ksc_assets/catalog/10837.pdf

External links[edit]

The Full Text of the McCarran Internal Security Act Department of Defense Instruction, December 2005 (from Defense Technical I