Non-Detention Act

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Non-Detention Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An Act to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit the establishment of detention camps, and for other purposes.
Nicknames Non-Detention Act of 1971
Enacted by the 92nd United States Congress
Effective September 25, 1971
Public law 92-128
Statutes at Large 85 Stat. 347
Titles amended 18 U.S.C.: Crimes and Criminal Procedure
U.S.C. sections amended 18 U.S.C. ch. 301 § 4001
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 234 by Spark Matsunaga (DHI) on April 6, 1971
  • Committee consideration by House Judiciary
  • Passed the House on September 14, 1971 (356-49)
  • Passed the Senate on September 16, 1971 (Passed, in lieu of S. 592)
  • Signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on September 25, 1971

The Non-Detention Act of 1971 was passed to repeal portions of McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950,[1] specifically Title II, the "Emergency Detention Act". The United States statute repealed the Emergency Detention Act of 1950 provisioning the United States Attorney General powers for detention of any American or non-American citizen deemed as a threat to the national security of the United States. The 64 Stat. 1019 statute was codified within Title 50 War and National Defense as 50 U.S.C. ch. 23, subch. II §§ 811-826.

The H.R. 234 legislation was passed by the 92nd United States Congressional session and enacted into law by the 37th President of the United States Richard Nixon on September 25, 1971.[2]

Content of the Law[edit]

The Act of Congress allowed for detention of suspected subversives without the normal Constitutional checks required for imprisonment. The Non-Detention Act requires specific Congressional authorization for such detention. Passed as Public Law 92-128, 85 Stat. 347 (1971), it was codified at 18 U.S.C. § 4001(a).

§ 4001. Limitation on detention

(a) No citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress.

In recent years, the statute has been used to challenge military detainment of U.S. citizens accused of terrorist activity. A Congressional Research Service report on the history of the Non-Detention Act concluded,

Legislative debate, committee reports, and the political context of 1971 indicate that when Congress enacted Section 4001(a) it intended the statutory language to restrict all detentions by the executive branch, not merely those by the Attorney General. Lawmakers, both supporters and opponents of Section 4001(a), recognized that it would restrict the President and military authorities.

Judicial Proceeding of Law[edit]

The Supreme Court of the United States originally took the case of Rumsfeld v. Padilla to decide the question of whether Congress's Authorization for Use of Military Force authorized the President to detain a U.S. citizen, but did not give an answer, instead ruling that the case had been improperly filed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ PBS documentary Trumbo on YouTube
  2. ^ Gerhard Peters; John T. Woolley. "Richard Nixon: "Statement on Signing Bill Repealing the Emergency Detention Act of 1950.," September 25, 1971". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara. Retrieved 23 December 2017. 

External links[edit]