McCarran Internal Security Act

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The Internal Security Act (a.k.a the Subversive Activities Control Act, McCarran Act - after Pat McCarran - or ISA) of 1950 is a United States federal law that required the registration of Communist organizations with the United States Attorney General and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate persons suspected of engaging in subversive activities or otherwise promoting the establishment of a "totalitarian dictatorship," fascist or communist. Members of these groups could not become citizens, and in some cases, were prevented from entering or leaving the country. Citizen-members could be denaturalized in five years.

It was a key institution in the era of the Cold War, tightening alien exclusion and deportation laws and allowing for the detention of dangerous, disloyal, or subversive persons in times of war or "internal security emergency". The Democratic-controlled Congress overrode President Harry S. Truman's veto to pass this bill. Truman called the bill "the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798."

Several key sections of the McCarran act were taken from the earlier Mundt–Ferguson Communist Registration Bill, which Congress had failed to pass.

Sections of the ISA were gradually ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.[citation needed]

Much of the Act has been repealed, but some portions remain intact. For example, violation of 50 U.S.C. § 797 (Section 21 of "the Internal Security Act of 1950"), which concerns security of military bases and other sensitive installations, may be punishable by a prison term of up to one year.[1]

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