Aptheker v. Secretary of State/Concurrence Black

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United States Supreme Court

378 U.S. 500

Aptheker  v.  Secretary of State

 Argued: April 21, 1964. --- Decided: June 22, 1964

Mr. Justice BLACK, concurring.

Section 6 of the Subversive Activities Control Act makes it a felony for a member of a 'Communist,' 'Communist-action,' or 'Communist-front' organization to apply for, use, or attempt to use a passport for travel abroad. I concur in the Court's holding that this section of the Act is unconstitutional, but not on the ground that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, standing alone, confers on all our people a constitutional liberty to travel abroad at will. Without reference to other constitutional provisions, Congress has, in my judgment, broad powers to regulate the issuance of passports under its specific power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. The Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments do mean to me, however, that neither the Secretary of State nor any other government agent can deny people in this country their liberty to travel or their liberty to do anything else except in accordance with the 'law of the land' as declared by the Constitution or by valid laws made pursuant to it. For reasons stated in my dissenting opinion in Communist Party v. Subversive Activities Control Board, 367 U.S. 1, 137, 81 S.Ct. 1357, 1431, 6 L.Ed.2d 625, I think the whole Act, including § 6, is not a valid law, that it sets up a comprehensive statutory plan which violates the Federal Constitution because (1) it constitutes a 'Bill of Attainder,' which Art. I, § 9, of the Constitution forbids Congress to pass; (2) it penalizes and punishes appellants and restricts their liberty on legislative and administrative fact-findings that they are subversives, and in effect traitors to their country, without giving them the benefit of a trial according to due process, which requires a trial by jury before an independent judge, after an indictment, and in accordance with all the other procedural protections of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments; and (3) it denies appellants the freedom of speech, press, and association which the First Amendment guarantees.

The Subversive Activities Control Act is supposed to be designed to protect this Nation's 'internal security.' This case offers another appropriate occasion to point out that the Framers thought (and I agree) that the best way to promote the internal security of our people is to protect their First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, religion and assembly, and that we cannot take away the liberty of groups whose views most people detest without jeopardizing the liberty of all others whose views, though popular today, may themselves be detested tomorrow.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).