Title page for ETD etd-04072006-093608

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Patenaude, Marc
Author's Email Address mpaten1@lsu.edu
URN etd-04072006-093608
Title The McCarran Internal Security Act, 1950-2005: Civil Liberties Versus National Security
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David Culbert Committee Chair
John Rodrigue Committee Member
Katherine Benton-Cohen Committee Member
  • patriot act
  • McCarthyism
  • Patrick McCarran
  • red scare
Date of Defense 2006-03-22
Availability unrestricted
In response to increased tensions over the Cold War and internal security, and in response to increased anti-Communism during the Red Scare, Congress, in 1950, enacted a notorious piece of legislation. The McCarran Act was designed to combat both the increased threat of international aggression by Communist nations and, thanks to a Communist party inside the United States, the possibility of internal subversion on the domestic front. The McCarran Act created a Subversive Activities Control Board to register members of a “Communist-action organization or a Communist-front organization.” Also contained within the McCarran Act was an Emergency Detention statute, which gave the President authority during times of internal security emergency, to apprehend and detain “each person as to whom there is a reasonable ground to believe that such person probably will engage in, or probably will conspire with others to engage in, acts of espionage or sabotage.” The McCarran Internal Security Act was the most comprehensive and stringent piece of anti-Communist legislation signed into law during the post-1945 Red Scare.

The McCarran Act raised important questions regarding the constitutionality of internal security legislation and the debate over internal security and civil liberties. This thesis argues that the decisions made by the Supreme Court in cases involving the McCarran Act and other anti-Communist legislation created a framework within which Congress created future internal security legislation, including the USA Patriot Act of 2001.

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