Friday, March 2, 2012
An act being criticized as curtailing First Amendment rights, Congress has passed and presented to the President the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act. The proposed act would amend 18 USC §1752 to read as follows:
(a) Whoever— ‘
(1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so;
(2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions;
(3) knowingly, and with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or
(4) knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds;
or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
The term "restricted building is defined rather broadly in subsection (c) as "any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area—
(A) of the White House or its grounds, or the Vice President’s official residence or its grounds;
(B) of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or
(C) of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.
The term "other person protected by the Secret Service" is defined as "any person whom the United States Secret Service is authorized to protect under section 3056 of this title or by Presidential memorandum, when such person has not declined such protection.’’
The general punishment is a fine or imprisonment of not more than a year or both, with an enhancement for weapons or significant boldily injury.
The House Report discusses two needs for the revised act. First, this Act expressly includes the White House and Vice-President's residence, specifics that are not included in the present act. Second, and more controversially, the act "clarifies" that it should "apply to those who knowingly enter or remain in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so. Current law does not include this important element."
Congress grounds its power to pass the act in the necessary and proper clause, Art. I, §8 cl. 18.
Like the act protecting the Supreme Court building and environs, this act has the potential to chill protest, and is sure to provoke similar constitutional challenges.
[image: White House, circa 1860, via]