Yes, never again, our courts agree | Letters | April 16
April 15, 2010 · 5:13 PM
“As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without trial or hearing... I would like to see the government admit they were wrong and do something about it, so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color.”
– Fred Korematsu in 1983 on his decision to challenge his 1944 conviction.
James Olsen said in his April 9 letter: “I say, let ‘IT’ (savage militaristic aggression sweeping the Pacific Rim) never happen again.”
We seem to be faced with two “ITs” here. I’m sure we would all concur with Mr. Olsen’s hope. However, with the only threat being from North Korea, will we invoke EO-9066 and move all citizens and legal immigrants of Korean ancestry to Idaho, Utah and California? How will we be able to distinguish between North and South Koreans?
The point at issue is whether entire communities of people should be removed from their homes and forced into internment camps because of their race.
The legality of EO-9066 was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision in the 1944 case of Korematsu v. United States. Actually, Korematsu was tried for violating Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34, which was a military order.
Mr. Olsen said: “Fact: Woodward smears Gen. DeWitt... for racist bigotry. Gen. DeWitt and the Army carried out the security provision with honor, fairness and compassion.”
Forty years after his conviction, Korematsu again decided to challenge it. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the same court that had convicted him, overturned its original decision.
The case was heard as a corum nobis case. A writ of corum nobis is a remedy used only in special circumstances to correct errors in a criminal conviction.
The court ruled that newly uncovered evidence revealed the existence of a manifest injustice which, had it been known at the time, would likely have changed the Supreme Court’s decision.
The decision rested on a series of documents recovered from the National Archives showing that the government had withheld important and relevant information from the Supreme Court that demonstrated that the Army had altered evidence to make it appear that Japanese Americans posed a greater threat of spying and disloyalty. Honor, fairness and compassion?
Mr. Olsen recommends a Web site, www.internmentarchives.com for information. Check it out, and also visit http://www.landmarkcases.org, an educational Web site “... developed to provide teachers with a full range of resources and activities to support the teaching of landmark Supreme Court cases, helping students explore the key issues of each case.” It is directed at law school students, but is understandable by any interested citizen.
That Mr. Olsen and I can express our differences in person or in print is a tribute to a great country.