1974 June 25

Supreme Court Rejects Taxpayer Challenge to CIA Secrecy


The 1949 Central Intelligence Act (June 20, 1949) granted secrecy to the CIA’s finances by specifically exempting them from the financial disclosure requirement featured in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution (see the text of the law, below).

William Richardson, an insurance claims adjuster, first filed a taxpayer’s suit challenging the law in 1968. That suit failed, but he tried again in 1972, and the case reached the Supreme Court, in United States v. Richardson, decided on this day. The Court held that he lacked standing to bring the suit. Justices Douglas, Brennan, Stewart, and Marshall dissented.

As a result, the secrecy of CIA operations remains in effect today.

Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

Chief Justice Warren Berger for the Court: [Richardson] “has failed to meet these fundamental tests . . . that the Constitution does not afford a judicial remedy does not, of course, completely disable the citizen who is not satisfied with the ‘ground rules’ established by the Congress for reporting expenditures of the Executive Branch.”

Justice William Douglas in dissent: “History shows that the curse of government is not always venality; secrecy is one of the most tempting cover-ups to save regimes from criticism.”

Listen to the oral argument in the case: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1973/1973_72_885

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