Courtesy Reuters

ON April 15, 1820, the Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, issued a passport to one Luther Bradish certifying that he was about to visit foreign countries "with the view of gratifying a commendable curiosity." In 1817 there had issued the first of the passport forms to bear at the top the American arms but, we are told, the eagle was portrayed "with the head turned in the wrong direction." In that brave new world there was a relaxed yet vigorous self-assurance. Today the Passport Division does not find curiosity commendable and the eagle's scream must issue from the right side of his beak. But it is not enough to take counsel of nostalgia or even of the righteous indignation aroused by ludicrous expressions of bureaucratic zeal.

We must begin by identifying our passport problem. The term "passport" in its earliest usage was applied to a permission given, it might be, to an

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  • LOUIS L. JAFFE, Byrne Professor of Administrative Law, Harvard Law School; author of "Judicial Aspects of Foreign Relations" and other legal studies
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