Richard Nixon photo

Statement on Signing Bill Repealing the Emergency Detention Act of 1950.

September 25, 1971

I HAVE today signed into law a measure recently enacted by the Congress repealing the Emergency Detention Act of 1950. This repeal legislation was wholeheartedly supported by this Administration.

The Emergency Detention Act was enacted as title II of the Internal Security Act of 1950. Among its provisions, it established procedures for the apprehension and detention, during internal security emergencies, of individuals likely to engage in acts of espionage or sabotage.

No President has ever attempted to use the provisions of this act. And while six detention camps were established and funded by the Congress, none of them was ever used for the purposes of this legislation. In fact, all six camps have been abandoned or used for other purposes since 1957.

Nevertheless, the mere continued existence of these legal provisions has aroused concern among many Americans that the act might someday be used to apprehend and detain citizens who hold unpopular views. Some have feared that it might someday be used to permit a situation comparable to the detention of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

I have supported and signed this repeal in order to put an end to such suspicions. In taking this action, I want to underscore this Nation's abiding respect for the liberty of the individual. Our democracy is built upon the constitutional guarantee that every citizen will be afforded due process of law. There is no place in American life for the kind of anxiety--however unwarranted--which the Emergency Detention Act has evidently engendered.

This strong country has no reason to fear that the normal processes of law-together with those special emergency powers which the Constitution grants to the Chief Executive--will be inadequate to deal with any situation, no matter how grave, that may arise in the future. But we do have a great deal to fear if we begin to lose faith in our constitutional ideals. The legislation I have signed today keeps faith with those ideals.

Note: The statement was released in Portland, Oreg.

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 234) is Public Law 92-128 (85 Stat. 347).

On the same day, the White House released an announcement of the signing, which contained additional information on the Emergency Detention Act of 1950.

Richard Nixon, Statement on Signing Bill Repealing the Emergency Detention Act of 1950. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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