GORIN V. UNITED STATES, 312 U. S. 19 (1941)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gorin v. United States, 312 U.S. 19 (1941)

Gorin v. United States

No. 87

Argued December 19, 1940

Decided January 13, 1941*

312 U.S. 19


1. In order to constitute the crimes denounced by §§ 1(b) and 2 of the Espionage Act -- the obtaining of documents connected with or relating to the national defense and their delivery to an agent of a foreign country with an intent, or reason to believe, in each case, that they are to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation -- it is not necessary that the documents contain information concerning the places or things (such as vessels, aircraft, forts, signal stations, codes or signal books) which are specifically mentioned in § 1(a) of the Act. P. 312 U. S. 25.

2. "National defense" as used in §§ 1(b) and 2 of the Espionage Act refers to the military or naval establishments and to related activities of national preparedness for war. P. 312 U. S. 28.

3. With this meaning of "national defense" and with the elements of scienter and bad faith which must be present, the sections are sufficiently definite to apprise the public of the activities they prohibit, and they accord with due process. P. 312 U. S. 27.

4. Information taken from reports in the files of the Naval Intelligence, giving a detailed picture of counter-espionage work, held capable of use to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation within the meaning of §§ 1 and 2 of the Espionage Act. P. 312 U. S. 29.

Page 312 U. S. 20

5. In establishing violations of §§ 1(b) and 2 of the Espionage Act, where it was proved that the forbidden information was to be used to the advantage of a foreign nation, it was not necessary to prove also that it was to be used to the injury of the United States. P. 312 U. S. 29.

6. In a prosecution under §§ 1(b) and 2 of the Espionage Act, the jury determines whether the acts of the defendants were connected with or elated to the national defense under proper tests laid down by the instructions. P. 312 U. S. 30.

The function of the court is to instruct as to the kind of information which is violative of the statute, and that of the jury to decide whether the information secured is of the defined kind. It is not the function of the court, where reasonable men may differ, to determine whether the acts do or do not come within the ambit of the statute. The question of the connection of the information with national defense is a question of fact to be determined by the jury as negligence upon disputed fact is determined.

111 F.2d 712 affirmed.

Certiorari, 310 U.S. 622, to review the affirmance of sentences for violations of the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917.

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