Posted on August 9, 2004

The Case for Racial Profiling

Wayne Lutton, Human Events Online, August 9, 2004

In her deservedly best-selling book Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores (Regnery Publishing, 2002), syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin detailed how our broken immigration system made it possible for the September 11 terrorists to waltz into our country and carry out their deadly attacks.

Since then, Malkin explains in her new book, In Defense on Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror, every reasonable measure to interrogate, track, detain, and deport potential terrorists has been assailed by critics as “racist.” The boogeyman of “racial profiling” is constantly raised, along with frequent references to the allegedly “racist” and “totally unjustified” West Coast evacuation and relocation of Japanese during the Second World War. Fear of repeating the World War II experience has even led the Bush Administration’s Transportation Department to ban “profiling” of suspicious characters at airports (which recently allowed a group of Syrian nationals, some with expired visas, to book one-way cross country flights to the West Coast).

Michelle Malkin has written an extraordinary account of “racial profiling” during wartime. Quite rightly, she notes that the very term is prejudicial to security. A far better description is “threat profiling.” It is common sense to give extra scrutiny to people who are more likely to commit crimes, whether murder, rape, and robbery, or acts of terrorism and sabotage. Law enforcement resources are limited and it is a waste of time to stop and question as many little old ladies as they do people who fit the description of terrorists.

Most of In Defense of Internment is devoted to a recounting of the World War II detention of enemy aliens and the mass relocation of ethnic Japanese from America’s West Coast. Based in large measure on declassified wartime intelligence reports, this exhaustively documented book challenges the prevailing liberal orthodoxy on this contentious issue. Key points among her provocative findings are:

— The evacuation of Japanese from the West Coast was motivated by sound national security interests, not “wartime hysteria” or blind “race prejudice.” Decoded high-level Japanese diplomatic messages (known as “MAGIC”) and other intelligence revealed the existence of extensive networks of espionage and the potential for sabotage involving resident Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast. “In truth,” she writes, “the U.S. government’s national security concerns during World War II, particularly the threat of espionage in support of the Japanese emperor, were real and urgent.”

— Only enemy aliens were actually “interned.” These included not only Japanese, but natives of other countries at war with the United States, including resident Germans, Italians, Rumanians, and Hungarians.

— The evacuation orders applied only to Japanese (aliens and citizens) residing in West Coast military zones. Japanese living elsewhere were not affected at all.

— The evacuees were not forced to stay in the relocation centers. During the war, tens of thousands of Japanese evacuees voluntarily left the camps for employment or to attend college. They simply were not permitted to relocate in militarily-sensitive areas.

— It is false to assert that those subjected to the evacuation orders were overwhelmingly “Japanese-Americans.” In fact, nearly two-thirds of the adults among the evacuees were Japanese nationals and thus, by law, enemy aliens. The vast majority of the “Japanese-Americans” were children at the time. Over 90% of the “Japanese Americans” over the age of 17 were dual citizens who retained their Japanese citizenship while claiming American privileges.

— The relocation centers had accredited schools, their own newspapers, stores, churches, hospitals, and sports and recreational facilities. The Japanese internees also enjoyed the highest wartime per capita birthrates of any community in the United States.

After the war, Congress recognized that a large number of evacuees had suffered financial hardships relating to their relocation. The American-Japanese Evacuation Claims Act was passed in 1948, authorizing payments to individuals and families of Japanese descent who claimed damage or loss of property because of evacuation or exclusion. More than 26,000 settlements were processed, averaging over $10,000 each (in current dollars). Between 1951 and 1978, Congress passed an additional eight compensation-related bills, including benefits for federal employees of Japanese ancestry and extended Social Security credits to former internees.

A new generation of Japanese American activists lobbied for additional reparations. As the author relates, their agitation finally met with success in 1981, when Congress authorized the creation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The nine-member commission was chaired by “liberal” Washington attorney Joan Bernstein, who, even before the “non-partisan” hearings began, characterized the wartime security measures as “a blot upon the history of the United States.” Sen. Daniel Inouye (D.-Hawaii) urged them to “make your report one that will haunt the conscience of this nation.”

Their final report, issued in 1983, failed to consider the impact of MAGIC intercepts, and other wartime intelligence findings, that were the essential foundations upon which the relocation program was based. Not surprisingly, the Commission instead declared that relocation “was not justified by military necessity. . . The broad historical causes that shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Although the 1948 Evacuation Claims Act had already repaid affected evacuees, at the urging of the Commission and hectoring from liberal New Jersey Republican Thomas Kean, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This authorized the issuance of $20,000-per-individual checks to claimants. Additionally, a federal public “education” program on the World War II evacuation of Japanese was mandated. Malkin shows how this campaign has been hi-jacked by the ethnic grievance industry.

Malkin confirms that the myths surrounding the wartime evacuation program are being used to undermine national security today. To avoid accusations of “profiling,” authorities have permitted Islamists to infiltrate key institutions. Boldly stating that this is “a Time to Discriminate,” in her conclusion, she remarks, “Tax-subsidized reparations and the never-ending slogging in white guilt were the price the nation paid for the effort to protect the West Coast during World War II. But in a post-September 11 world, we can no longer afford the indulgent abuse of history as multicultural group therapy. Lies about the past continue to color and poison the current national security debate over how best to defend ourselves from terrorist invasion and infiltration in the future.”

In Defense of Internment is a remarkable achievement. It is historically accurate and, if widely read and discussed, could help re-direct national security policies in directions that would more likely contribute to our national survival.