Grenada. An injunction by this Court could do no more to eradicate the effects of the temporary press ban.
Even if this Court were of the opinion that plaintiffs' claim for injunctive relief continued to present a live controversy and that the temporary press ban had violated plaintiffs' constitutional rights, which the Court doubts, it would exercise its equitable discretion and decline to enter an injunction restraining the government from restricting press access to future United States military operations. See Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 11-16, 92 S. Ct. 2318, 2324-2327, 33 L. Ed. 2d 154 (1972); Halkin v. Helms, 223 U.S. App. D.C. 254, 690 F.2d 977, 1005-06 (D.C.Cir.1982). An injunction such as the one plaintiffs seek would limit the range of options available to the commanders in the field in the future, possibly jeopardizing the success of military operations and the lives of military personnel and thereby gravely damaging the national interest. As the courts have repeatedly recognized, a showing by a plaintiff that "he personally faces" a specific, imminent threat of irreparable harm is required before "the conduct of vital governmental functions which require the exercise of discretion in a myriad of unpredictable circumstances" will be enjoined. Halkin v. Helms, 690 F.2d at 1005-06. See Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. at 15, 92 S. Ct. at 2326; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press v. American Telephone & Telegraph Co., 192 U.S. App. D.C. 376, 593 F.2d 1030, 1067 (D.C.Cir.1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 949, 99 S. Ct. 1431, 59 L. Ed. 2d 639 (1979); Exxon Corp. v. F.T.C., 191 U.S. App. D.C. 59, 589 F.2d 582, 589 n.14 (D.C.Cir.1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 943, 99 S. Ct. 2160, 60 L. Ed. 2d 1044 (1979). No such showing can possibly be made in this case by these plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief presents a slightly different question, but the Court concludes that it is also moot under the principles enunciated by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Halkin v. Helms, 690 F.2d at 1006-09. In the instant case, plaintiffs argue that their claim for declaratory relief is not moot because defendants continue to claim the right to impose a press ban under certain circumstances during military operations involving United States forces. A nearly identical argument was raised unsuccessfully in Halkin v. Helms. In that case it was argued that "the fact that the executive branch has not renounced all claims of power under the Constitution to conduct [the challenged (surveillance) activity] in the future compels the conclusion that a live controversy still exists." 690 F.2d at 1007. The Halkin Court rejected this argument, relying on a line of Supreme Court cases beginning with Harris v. Battle, 348 U.S. 803, 75 S. Ct. 34, 99 L. Ed. 634 (1954), and including Oil Workers Union v. Missouri, 361 U.S. 363, 80 S. Ct. 391, 4 L. Ed. 2d 373 (1960) and Super Tire Engineering Co. v. McCorkle, 416 U.S. 115, 94 S. Ct. 1694, 40 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1974).
In Halkin v. Helms, like this case, the challenged activity was voluntarily terminated by the government. 690 F.2d at 1005. Nevertheless, the Court held that the claim for declaratory relief was moot because the challenged surveillance activity was necessarily contingent upon the exercise of executive discretion. Id. at 1009. The Halkin Court concluded that a claim for declaratory relief in cases where the challenged activity has ceased is only viable if the challenged activity resulted from a "fixed and definite" government policy that was "essentially carved in stone and self-executing in nature [and] 'not contingent upon executive discretion'." Id., quoting Super Tire Engineering Co. v. McCorkle, 416 U.S. at 124, 94 S. Ct. at 1699. This holding was based on the Court's reading of the majority opinion in Super Tire Engineering Co. v. McCorkle "as marking the outermost boundaries of declaratory judgment actions satisfying the case-or-controversy requirement," id. at 1009 n. 119, and the "crucial" fact that in the Super Tire case "the source of complaint was 'a fixed policy directive' of the government." Id. at 1009.
The justiciability of plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief is controlled by Halkin v. Helms. The decision whether or not to impose a press ban during military operations and the nature and extent of such a ban if imposed are matters that necessarily must be left to the discretion of the commander in the field. There is nothing in the record suggesting that the government has formulated a fixed policy of excluding the press from military operations -- even during the initial stages of island invasions. A decision whether or not to impose a press ban is one that depends on the degree of secrecy required, force size, the equipment involved, and the geography of the field of operations. Moreover, the scope of press exclusion, if any, will differ somewhat in every case. Under such circumstances, where the decision being scrutinized is committed to the broad discretion of the commander in the field and is contingent upon a wide range of factors determinable only with reference to the particular military operation being undertaken, a declaratory judgment would be futile, and perhaps even dangerous, because of its limited value as a guide for future conduct. Thus, the Court concludes that plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief is also moot.
Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint is granted and this action is dismissed with prejudice.