Greene v. McElroy

360 U.S. 474 (1959)

Facts: Petitioner was an aeronautical engineer who lost his security clearance on the basis of secret testimony concerning his ex-wife’s association with Communists. Petitioner was unable to obtain comparable employment without a security clearance. The appellate court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to respondents. Petitioner argued he was deprived of liberty and property without due process by 5th amend.

Issue: Whether the revocation of Petitioner’s clearance was a violation of his due process rights where Congress had not specifically authorized such action in statute.

Holding: The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s judgment and remanded because petitioner had been denied the traditional due process rights of confrontation and cross-examination under U.S. Const. amend. V. The Court held that under U.S. Const. amend. V petitioner was entitled to the protection of his liberty and property interest in being able to practice his profession. The Court further held that the deprivation of this right would require full hearings in which accusers could be confronted. The Court stated that no administrative action to restrict the scope of due process for national security reasons could be taken without explicit authorization from Congress or the President. Acquiescence or implied ratification is not enough to show delegation.

OUTCOME: The Court reversed the lower court’s judgment and remanded the matter, holding that a hearing on the denial of a security clearance required traditional due process standards of confrontation and cross-examination in the absence of specific legislative or executive authorization to waive due process requirements.

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