McCarran Internal Security Act
|Nickname(s)||McCarran Act, Subversive Activities Control Act|
|Enacted by the||
81st United States Congress
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 of the McCarthy era. It was enacted over President Harry Truman's veto.
Its titles were I: Subversive Activities Control (Subversive Activities Control Act) and II: Emergency Detention (Emergency Detention Act of 1950).
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."
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".
Legislative history 
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 (HUAC) had learned when investigating "the so-called pumpkin papers case, the espionage activities in the Chambers-Hiss case, the Bentley case, and others."
President 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".
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.
Use by US military 
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 suspend the Second Amendment. The Act itself does not state this authority, but it is interpreted in the same manner as the suspended portion codified as 50 USC 798. An Army message known as an ALARACT 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. The full public law is worded in terms of which situations the Department of Defense cannot regulate, as opposed to which they can.
Part of the Act was repealed by the 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.
18 U.S.C. § 793(e) was later used in several cases that did not involve traditional espionage but rather interactions with the media (or in AIPAC's case, lobbyists). These cases included the Pentagon Papers Russo/Ellsberg case (1972), the Morison case (1985), the AIPAC case (United States v. Franklin, 2005), the Thomas Andrews Drake case (2010), and the Bradley Manning case (2010).
References in popular culture 
The 1971 pseudo documentary film Punishment Park speculated what might have happened if Richard Nixon had enforced the McCarran Act against members of the anti-war movement, civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and others.
See also 
- Alien Registration Act
- Communist Registration Act
- Espionage Act of 1917
- Hatch Act of 1939
- McCarran-Walter Act
- Second Red Scare
- 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.
- "50 USC 798". Findlaw.
- ALARACT 333/2011 DTG R 311939Z AUG 11
- Public Law. "111-383". 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.[dead link]
- Russo & Ellsberg, Morison,Franklin, Drake, Manning
- The Full Text of the McCarran Internal Security Act
- Department of Defense Instruction, December 2005 (from Defense Technical Information Center)