Haig v. Agee: Power to Revoke Passports

Whether a passport can be revoked or not has been a major question since
the mid- 1800's. Haig v. Agee is a landmark Supreme Court case charging that
the Secretary of State can not revoke a passport on the grounds that the power
has never been granted by the Congress to the Secretary, and that revoking a
passport violates the first and fifth amendments of the Constitution of the
United States. Not only does the Secretary of State have implied powers, but
revoking Agee's passport did not violate any laws or rights.
In Haig v. Agee, the defendant claims that the Passport Act of 1926 does
not grant the Secretary of State the right to revoke passports. However, the
Passport Act does state that the Secretary of State is the only person who can
grant and withhold passport applications. And based upon later provisions, the
Secretary can withhold applications if the party is involved with illegal
activities. If the Secretary of State can grant and withhold passports, was it
implied by the Congress that the Secretary has the powers to revoke passports?

"The Secretary of State may grant and issue passports, and cause passports to be
granted, issued, and verified in foreign countries by diplomatic representatives
of the United States . . . under such rules as the President shall designated
and prescribe for and on behalf of the United States, and no other person shall
grant, issue, or verify such passports." 22 U.S.C. 211a (1976 ed., Supp. IV).

Since the Congress did not specify who has the powers to revoke passports, it
should be assumed that because the Secretary is the only person who can grant
passports, they are the only ones who can revoke passports on grounds of illegal
activities, such as treason. If you consider that Agee's passport was revoked
because he was uncovering secret CIA agents, he was undoubtedly committing
treason. Though treason is usually considered to be evident during times of war,
treason can also be defined as placing national security in jeopardy, such as
the case of Agee. Agee's passport should not only have been taken, he should
have been extradited and tried by a jury for the crime of treason.
Agee also claims that since the power to revoke passports was not
directly given to the Secretary of State or the President, then in order to show
they have the power, they must have revoked many passports in the past and have
the Congress' approval. However, the need to revoke passports on the grounds of
treason has not come up many times before; There is always a first and Agee
might just have been it. The Congress did show approval when they voted to
approve the President's provisions and amendments on the matter of revoking
passports in 1978. This shows that the Congress agrees that the Executive
branch has been recognized as having the power to revoke passports.
By revoking a passport, the government is not infringing on the party's
first amendment rights, freedom of speech. The party involved is merely being
told that they cannot leave the country, not that they cannot speak out against
the government. For example, if a person is sentenced to jail, they cannot roam
around the world, but they can speak out against the government. Revoking
Agee's passport only limits where he can go, not what he can say; This does not
infringe on any of his rights granted in the Constitution. Revoking a passport
also does not infringe upon the fifth amendment because illegal activities are
involved. For example, if you commit a crime, the police do not wait until
after you go before a judge and/or jury before they put you in jail; They
immediately incarcerate you as a precautionary move. Revoking a passport on
grounds of national security does not require a hearing before hand because it
is only a precautionary move.
Agee's grounds for suit are totally ludicrous. None of his rights have
been violated, considering that he should have none because he is committing
treason by revealing secrets of the United States and by compromising national
security. Congress may not have said exactly who has the power to revoke
passports, but they did mention that the Secretary of state is the only person
who can grant and verify them; Why wouldn't the Secretary of State be the only
person who can revoke them?


U.S. Supreme Court, HAIG v. AGEE, 453 U.S. 280 (1981)