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[Cite as Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 22-23 (1972). Note: This decision concerns military surveillance and whether this activity exceeded constitutional uses of the Army, and whether it violated the First Amendment. In his dissent, Justice Douglas quoted a law review article by Chief Justice Warren which referred to numerous bill of rights guarantees, including the Second Amendment, as safeguards intended to protect America from rule by a standing army: "the Bill of Rights Amendments 2 and 3, specifically authorizing a deventralized militia, guaranteeing the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and prohibiting the quartering of troops in any house in time of peace without the consent of the owner." (P. 22) In a later dissent, Justice Douglas said, "There is no reason why all pistols should not be barred to everyone except the police." (Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 150 (1972)). He clarified this position and indicated the Second Amendment did apply to invidiuals and thus subject to watering down, "But if watering down is the mood of the day, I would prefer to water down the second amendment rather than the fourth amendment." (Id. at 151). This is consistent with Justice Douglas's views a decade eariler: "The closest the framers came to the affirmative side of liberty was in the right to bear arms. Yet this too has been greatly modified by judicial construction." (Douglas, The Bill of Rights is Not Enough, 38 N.Y.U. L. REV. 207, 233 (1963).)]

[Laird v. Tatum continued
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[paragraph continued from previous page] demanding to know why I was so ignorant of the British way of doing things that I could dare to suggest that a British general should address a parliamentary body.

"As I remember it, what he said was 'I am the Minister of Defense and I, not the generals, will state the policy of His Majesty's government.'" The Intervention of the General, Washington Post, Apr. 27, 1967, Sec. A, p. 21, col. 1.[24.9]

The act of turning the military loose on civilians even if sanctioned by an Act of Congress, which it has not been, would raise serious and profound constitutional questions. Standing as it does only on brute power and Pentagon policy, it must be repudiated as a usurpation dangerous to the civil liberties on which free men are dependent. For, as Senator Sam Ervin has said, "this claim of an inherent executive branch power of investigation and surveillance on the basis of people's beliefs and attitudes may be more of a threat to our internal security than any enemies beyond our borders." Privacy and Government Investigations, 1971 U. Ill. L. F. 137, 153.


The claim that respondents have no standing to challenge the Army's surveillance of them and the other members of the class they seek to represent is too transparent for serious argument. The surveillance of the Army over the civilian sector--a part of society hitherto immune from its control--is a serious charge. It is alleged that the Army maintains files on the membership, ideology, programs, and practices of virtually every activist political group in the country, including groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Clergy (p.25)and Laymen United Against the War in Vietnam, the American Civil Liberties Union, Women's Strike for Peace, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Army uses undercover agents to infiltrate these civilian groups and to reach into confidential files of students and other groups. The Army moves as a secret group among civilian audiences, using cameras and electronic ears for surveillance. The data it collects are distributed to civilian officials in state, federal, and local governments and to each military intelligence unit and troop command under the Army's jurisdiction (both here and abroad); and these data are stored in one or more data banks.

Those are the allegations; and the charge is that the purpose and effect of the system of surveillance is to harass and intimidate the respondents and to deter them from exercising their rights of political expression, protest, and dissent "by invading their privacy, damaging their reputations, adversely affecting their employment and their opportunities for employment, and in other ways." Their fear is that "permanent reports of their activities will be maintained in the Army's data bank, and their 'profiles' will appear in the so-called 'Blacklist' and that all of this information will be released to numerous federal and state agencies upon request."

Judge Wilkey, speaking for the Court of Appeals, properly inferred that this Army surveillance "exercises a present inhibiting effect on their full expression and utilization of their First Amendment rights." 144 U.S. App. D.C. 72, 79, 444 F.2d 947, 954. That is the test. The "deterrent effect" on First Amendment rights by government oversight marks an unconstitutional intrusion, Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301, 307. Or, as stated by Mr. Justice Brennan, "inhibition as well as prohibition against the exercise of precious First (p.26)Amendment rights is a power denied to government." Id., at 309. When refusal of the Court to pass on the constitutionality of an Act under the normal consideration of forbearance "would itself have an inhibitory effect on freedom of speech" then the Court will act. United States v. Raines, 362 U.S. 17, 22.

As stated by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, "there is good reason to permit the strong to speak for the weak or the timid in First Amendment matters." Anderson v. Sills, 56 N.J. 210, 220, 265 A. 2d 678, 684 (1970).

One need not wait to sue until he loses his job or until his reputation is defamed. To withhold standing to sue until that time arrives would in practical effect immunize from judicial scrutiny all surveillance activities, regardless of their misuse and their deterrent effect. As stated in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 101, "in terms of Article III limitations on federal court jurisdiction, the question of standing is related only to whether the dispute sought to be adjudicated will be presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as capable of judicial resolution." Or, as we put it in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, the gist of the standing issue is whether the party seeking relief has "alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions."

The present controversy is not a remote, imaginary conflict. Respondents were targets of the Army's surveillance. First, the surveillance was not casual but massive and comprehensive. Second, the intelligence reports were regularly and widely circulated and were exchanged with reports of the FBI, state and municipal police departments, and the CIA. Third, the Army's (p.27)surveillance was not collecting material in public records but staking out teams of agents, infiltrating undercover agents, creating command posts inside meetings, posing as press photographers and newsmen, posing as TV newsmen, posing as students, and shadowing public figures.

Finally, we know from the hearings conducted by Senator Ervin that the Army has misused or abused its reporting functions. Thus, Senator Ervin concluded that reports of the Army have been "taken from the Intelligence Command's highly inaccurate civil disturbance teletype and filed in Army dossiers on persons who have held, or were being considered for, security clearances, thus contaminating what are supposed to be investigative reports with unverified gossip and rumor. This practice directly jeopardized the employment and employment opportunities of persons seeking sensitive positions with the federal government or defense industry."[27.10]

Surveillance of civilians is none of the Army's constitutional business and Congress has not undertaken to entrust it with any such function. The fact that since this litigation started the Army's surveillance may have been cut back is not an end of the matter. Whether there has been an actual cutback or whether the announcements are merely a ruse can be determined only after a hearing in the District Court. We are advised by an amicus curiae brief filed by a group of former Army Intelligence Agents that Army surveillance of civilians is rooted in secret programs of long standing:

"Army intelligence has been maintaining an unauthorized watch over civilian political activity for nearly 30 years. Nor is this the first time that (p.28)Army intelligence has, without notice to its civilian superiors, overstepped its mission. From 1917 to 1924, the Corps of Intelligence Police maintained a massive surveillance of civilian political activity which involved the use of hundreds of civilian informants, the infiltration of civilian organizations and the seizure of dissenters and unionists, sometimes without charges. That activity was opposed--then as now--by civilian officials on those occasions when they found out about it, but it continued unabated until post-war disarmament and economies finally eliminated the bureaucracy that conducted it." Pp. 29-30.

This case involves a cancer in our body politic. It is a measure of the disease which afflicts us. Army surveillance, like Army regimentation, is at war with the principles of the First Amendment. Those who already walk submissively will say there is no cause for alarm. But submissiveness is not our heritage. The First Amendment was designed to allow rebellion to remain as our heritage. The Constitution was designed to keep government off the backs of the people. The Bill of Rights was added to keep the precincts of belief and expression, of the press, of political and social activities free from surveillance. The Bill of Rights was designed to keep agents of government and official eavesdroppers away from assemblies of people. The aim was to allow men to be free and independent and to assert their rights against government. There can be no influence more paralyzing of that objective than Army surveillance. When an intelligence officer looks over every nonconformist's shoulder in the library, or walks invisibly by his side in a picket line, or infiltrates his club, the America once extolled as the voice of liberty heard around the world no longer is (p.29)cast in the image which Jefferson and Madison designed, but more in the Russian image, depicted in Appendix III to this opinion.


The narrowly circumscribed domestic role which Congress has by statute authorized the Army to play is clearly an insufficient basis for the wholesale civilian surveillance of which respondents complain. The entire domestic mission of the armed services is delimited by nine statutes.

Four define the Army's narrow role as a back-up for civilian authority where the latter has proved insufficient to cope with insurrection:

10 U.S.C. § 331:

"Whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened, call into Federal service such of the militia of the other States, in the number requested by that State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to suppress the insurrection."

10 U.S.C. § 332:

"Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion."(p.30)

10 U.S.C. § 333:

"The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both, or by any other means, shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it--

"(1) so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

"(2) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

"In any situation covered by clause (1), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution."

10 U.S.C. § 334:

"Whenever the President considers it necessary to use the militia or the armed forces under this chapter, he shall, by proclamation, immediately order the insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their abodes within a limited time."

Two statutes, passed as a result of Reconstruction Era military abuses, prohibit military interference in civilian elections:

18 U.S.C. § 592:

"Whoever, being an officer of the Army or Navy, or other person in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, orders, brings, keeps, or has under his authority or control any troops or armed men at any place where a general or special election is held, unless such force be necessary to repel armed enemies of the (p.31)United States, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both; and be disqualified from holding any office of honor, profit, or trust under the United States.

"This section shall not prevent any officer or member of the armed forces of the United States from exercising the right of suffrage in any election district to which he may belong, if otherwise qualified according to the laws of the State in which he offers to vote."

18 U.S.C. § 593:

"Whoever, being an officer or member of the Armed Forces of the United States, prescribes or fixes or attempts to prescribe or fix, whether by proclamation, order or otherwise, the qualifications of voters at any election in any State; or

"Whoever, being such officer or member, prevents or attempts to prevent by force, threat, intimidation, advice or otherwise any qualified voter of any State from fully exercising the right of suffrage at any general or special election; or

"Whoever, being such officer or member, orders or compels or attempts to compel any election officer in any State to receive a vote from a person not legally qualified to vote; or

"Whoever, being such officer or member, imposes or attempts to impose any regulations for conducting any general or special election in a State, different from those prescribed by law; or

"Whoever, being such officer or member, interferes in any manner with an election officer's discharge of his duties--

"Shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both; and disqualified from holding any office of honor, profit or trust under the United States.(p.32)

"This section shall not prevent any officer or member of the Armed Forces from exercising the right of suffrage in any district to which he may belong, if otherwise qualified according to the laws of the State of such district."

Another Reconstruction Era statute forbids the use of military troops as a posse comitatus:

18 U.S.C. § 1385:

"Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Finally, there are two specialized statutes. It was thought necessary to pass an Act of Congress to give the armed services some limited power to control prostitution near military bases, and an Act of Congress was required to enable a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to testify before Congress:

18 U.S.C. § 1384:

"Within such reasonable distance of any military or naval camp, station, fort, post, yard, base, cantonment, training or mobilization place as the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of the Air Force, or any two or all of them shall determine to be needful to the efficiency, health, and welfare of the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, and shall designate and publish in general orders or bulletins, whoever engages in prostitution or aids or abets prostitution or procures or solicits for purposes of prostitution, or keeps or sets up a house of ill fame, brothel, or bawdy house, or receives any person for purposes of lewdness, assignation, or prostitution into any vehicle, conveyance, place, structure, or building, or permits any person to remain for (p.33)the purpose of lewdness, assignation, or prostitution in any vehicle, conveyance, place, structure, or building or leases or rents or contracts to lease or rent any vehicle, conveyance, place, structure or building, or part thereof, knowing or with good reason to know that it is intended to be used for any of the purposes herein prohibited shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

"The Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and the Federal Security Administrator shall take such steps as they deem necessary to suppress and prevent such violations thereof, and shall accept the cooperation of the authorities of States and their counties, districts, and other political subdivisions in carrying out the purpose of this section.

"This section shall not be construed as conferring on the personnel of the Departments of the Army, Navy, or Air Force or the Federal Security Agency any authority to make criminal investigations, searches, seizures, or arrests of civilians charged with violations of this section."

10 U.S.C. § 141 (e):

"After first informing the Secretary of Defense, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may make such recommendations to Congress relating to the Department of Defense as he may consider appropriate."


Walter Lippmann gave the following account of his conversation with Churchill:

"The President's bringing Gen. Westmoreland home in order to explain the war reminds me of an instructive afternoon spent during the Second World War. The country and the Congress were divided on the question of whether to strike first against (p.34)Hitler or first against Japan. Churchill and Roosevelt had agreed on the policy of Hitler first. But there were large and powerful groups in the country, many of them former isolationists in the sense that they were anti-European, who wanted to concentrate American forces on winning the war against Japan. Even the American chiefs of staff were divided on this question of high strategy.

"Churchill had come to Washington, accompanied by the British chiefs of staff, to work out with President Roosevelt and the Administration the general plan of the global war. One morning I had a telephone call from Sen. Austin, who was a strong believer in the Churchill-Roosevelt line. He said in effect, `I know you are seeing the Prime Minister this afternoon and I wish you would ask him to tell his chiefs of staff to come to Congress and testify in favor of our strategical policy.' Quite innocently I said I would do this, and when Churchill received me that afternoon I began by saying that I had a message from Sen. Austin. 'Would the Prime Minister instruct his chiefs of staff to go to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ....' I never finished the message. For the old lion let out a roar demanding to know why I was so ignorant of the British way of doing things that I could dare to suggest that a British general should address a parliamentary body.

"As I remember it, what he said was, 'I am the Minister of Defense and I, not the generals, will state the policy of His Majesty's government.'

"No one who ever aroused the wrath of Churchill is likely to forget it. I certainly have not forgotten it. I learned an indelible lesson about one of the elementary principles of democratic government. And therefore, I take a very sour view of a field (p.35)commander being brought home by the President to educate the Congress and the American people."

Our military added political departments to their staffs. A Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Military Policy Division, was first established in the Department of the Navy by President Truman in 1945. In the Office of Secretary of Defense that was done by President Truman in 1947, the appointee eventually becoming Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs. A like office was established in 1961 in the Department of the Army by President Kennedy and another for the Air Force in 1957 by President Eisenhower. Thus, when the Pentagon entered a Washington, D.C., conference, its four "Secretaries of State" faced the real Secretary of State and more frequently than not talked or stared him down. The Pentagon's "Secretaries of State" usually spoke in unison; they were clear and decisive with no ifs, ands, or buts, and in policy conferences usually carried the day.

By 1968 the Pentagon was spending $34 million a year on non-military social and behavioral science research both at home and abroad. One related to "witchcraft, sorcery, magic, and other psychological phenomena" in the Congo. Another concerned the "political influence of university students in Latin America." Other projects related to the skill of Korean women as divers, snake venoms in the Middle East, and the like. Research projects were going on for the Pentagon in 40 countries in sociology, psychology and behavioral sciences.

The Pentagon became so powerful that no President would dare crack down on it and try to regulate it.

The military approach to world affairs conditioned our thinking and our planning after World War II.

We did not realize that to millions of these people there was no difference between a Communist dictatorship (p.36)and the dictatorship under which they presently lived. We did not realize that in some regions of Asia it was the Communist party that identified itself with the so-called reform programs, the other parties being mere instruments for keeping a ruling class in power. We did not realize that, in the eyes of millions of illiterates, the choice between democracy and communism was not the critical choice it would be for us.

We talked about "saving democracy." But the real question in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America was whether democracy would ever be born.

We forgot that democracy in most lands is an empty word. We asked illiterate people living at the subsistence level to furnish staging grounds for a military operation whose outcome, in their eyes, had no relation to their own welfare. Those who rejected our overtures must be communists, we said. Those who did not approve our military plans must be secretly aligning with Russia, we thought.

So it was that in underdeveloped areas we became identified not with ideas of freedom, but with bombs, planes, and tanks. We thought less and less in terms of defeating communism with programs of political action, more and more in terms of defeating communism with military might. Our foreign aid mounted; but nearly 70% of it was military aid.

Our fears mounted as the cold war increased in intensity. These fears had many manifestations. The communist threat inside the country was magnified and exalted far beyond its realities. Irresponsible talk fanned the flames. Accusations were loosely made. Character assassinations were common. Suspicion took the place of goodwill. We needed to debate with impunity and explore to the edges of problems. We needed to search to the horizon for answers to perplexing problems. We needed confidence in each other. But in the (p.37)40's, 50's, and 60's suspicions grew. Innocent acts became telltale marks of disloyalty. The coincidence that an idea paralleled Soviet Russia's policy for a moment of time settled an aura of doubt around a person. The Intervention of the General, Washington Post, Apr. 27, 1967, Sec. A, p.21, col. 1.


Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, the noted Soviet author, made the following statement March 30, 1972, concerning surveillance of him and his family (reported in the Washington Post, Apr. 3, 1972):

"A kind of forbidden, contaminated zone has been created around my family, and to this day, there are people in Ryazan [where Solzhenitsyn used to live] who were dismissed from their jobs for having visited my house a few years ago. A corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences, T. Timofeyev, who is director of a Moscow institute, became so scared when he found out that a mathematician working under him was my wife that he dismissed her with unseemly haste, although this was just after she had given birth and contrary to all laws ...

"It happens that an informant [for his new book on the history of prerevolutionary Russia] may meet with me. We work an hour or two and as soon as he leaves my house, he will be closely followed, as if he were a state criminal, and they will investigate his background, and then go on to find out who this man meets, and then, in turn, who that [next] person is meeting.

"Of course they cannot do this with everyone. The state security people have their schedule, and their own profound reasoning. On some days, there is no surveillance at all, or only superficial surveillance. On other days, they hang around, for example when Heinrich Boll [paragraph continues next page]

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[24.9] The full account is contained in Appendix II, infra, at 33.

[27.10] Hearings on Federal Data Banks, Computers and the Bill of Rights, before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. (1971).