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The United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies are currently engaged in the negotiation of a new arms control agreement on "Open Skies," reviving a failed concept from the 1950s. The treaty would permit each country to overfly the others on short notice and with great frequency, and to use diverse, sophisticated sensors to photograph key military and defense-related installations. This type of mutual intelligencegathering arrangement offers great advantages for national security and global stability, reducing the possibility of surprise attack and accordingly mitigating the necessity for maintaining large, offsetting military deployments. At the same time, however, the intrusive inspection powers it contemplates might also conflict with the fourth amendment's prohibitions against warrantless governmental searches conducted inside the United States. In this Article, the author scrutinizes the Open Skies provisions now on the negotiating table and assesses them for constitutionality, applying precedents and principles derived from traditional criminal law. He concludes that an Open Skies treaty could be implemented consistently with fundamental United States jurisprudence, but only with certain limitations, and that the current negotiations finalizing the treaty text ought to take carefully into account the concerns of future reviewing courts.

Publication Citation

79 Cal. L. Rev. 421