Thursday, December 22, 2005

United States v United States District Court

Justice Powell delivered the opinion of the court. Some highlights below:

History abundantly documents the tendency of Government -- however benevolent and benign its motive -- to view with suspicion those who most fervently dispute its policies. Fourth Amendment protections become the more necessary when the targets of official surveillance may be those suspected of unorthodoxy in their political beliefs. The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect "domestic security." Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent. Senator Hart addressed this dilemma in the floor debate on § 2511(3):

"As I read it -- and this is my fear -- we are saying that the President, on his motion, could declare -- name your favorite poison -- draft dodgers, Black Muslims, the Ku Klux Klan, or civil rights activists to be a clear and present danger to the structure or existence of the Government."

The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power. Nor must the fear of unauthorized official eavesdropping deter vigorous citizen dissent and discussion of Government action in private conversation. For private dissent, no less than open public discourse, is essential to our free society.

These Fourth Amendment freedoms cannot properly be guaranteed if domestic security surveillances may be conducted solely within the discretion of the Executive Branch.

United States v United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972). (Powell, J,, writing for the unanimous court. Emphasis added.)

I couldn't have said it better myself.

... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

No comments: