Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S 280; 101 S. Ct. 2766; 69 L. Ed. 2d 640 (1981)

Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S 280; 101 S. Ct. 2766; 69 L. Ed. 2d 640 (1981)

Facts—Agee, an American citizen and a former employee of the CIA, an- nounced a campaign “to expose CIA officers and agents and to take measures necessary to drive them out of the countries where they are operating.” Be- cause Agee’s activities abroad resulted in the identification of alleged under- cover CIA agents and intelligence sources in foreign countries, Secretary of State Alexander Haig revoked Agee’s passport, on the basis of a regulation authorizing him to revoke a passport where he determines that an American citizen’s activities abroad causes or is likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States. Agee contended that the revocation would violate a Fifth Amendment liberty interest in a right to travel and a First Amendment right to criticize government policies.

Question—May the president, acting through the secretary of state, revoke a passport on the ground that the citizen’s activities abroad are causing or are likely to cause serious damage to the national security or foreign policy of the United States?


ReasonsC.J. Burger (7–2). “The Passport Act does not in so many words confer upon the secretary a power to revoke a passport, nor, . . . does it ex- pressly authorize denials of passport applications. Neither, however, does any statute expressly limit those powers. It is beyond dispute that the secretary has the power to deny a passport for reasons not specified in the statutes. The his- tory of passport controls since the earliest days of the Republic shows congres- sional recognition of executive authority to withhold passports on the basis of substantial reasons of national security and foreign policy. It is ‘obvious and unarguable’ that no governmental interest is more compelling than the security of the nation. Protection of the foreign policy of the United States is a govern- mental interest of great importance, since foreign policy and national security considerations cannot neatly be compartmentalized. Agee . . . endangered the interests of countries other than the United States, thereby creating serious problems for American foreign relations and foreign policy. Restricting Agee’s foreign travel, although perhaps not certain to prevent all of Agee’s harmful activities, is the only avenue open to the government to limit these activities.”

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