408 U.S. 606 (1972)
Facts of the Case
Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska was given a copy of the classified “Pentagon Papers” in 1971. After he received the classified documents, he called a meeting of his subcommittee in the Senate and shared their contents with the others in the subcommittee. He also allegedly arranged to publish the documents through Beacon Press. A federal grand jury, in the process of an investigation of possible federal law violations, subpoenaed one of Senator Gravel’s aides. Senator Gravel protested this subpoena arguing that requiring the aide to testify would be a violation of the Speech and Debate clause.
Article 1, Section 6 of the United States Constitution. Specifically the Speech and Debate Clause.
1. Under the Speech and Debate Clause, are members of Congress exempt from questioning in the investigation of the commission of a crime? Yes
2. Are aides to members of Congress also protected under the Speech and Debate Clause? Yes
3. Is Senator Gravel’s alleged arrangement with Beacon Press protected by the Speech and Debate Clause? No
Opinion of the Court (White)
The Speech and Debate clause of the U.S. Constitution was intended to protect members of Congress from any prosecution that disrupts the legislative process. Therefore, Gravel is justified in his claim that he is protected under it.
The aides of a member of Congress are perceived by the Court to be “alter egos” of the member itself. Thus, the Court holds that, by the indistinguishable nature of the characteristics and duties of the members and their aides, the protection provided by the Speech and Debate Clause should be extended to the aides. The Court adds one caveat: aides are exempt from grand jury questioning only if a member of Congress invokes the privilege on their behalf.
The Court interprets the Speech and Debate clause to extend to only those within the legislative sphere. The clause is only understood by the