- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bruce Fein is overly broad in his condemnation of the sequestration of Japanese-Americans soon after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack as “race-based” (“Judicial disaster,” Commentary, Tuesday). “Asian” may describe a race, but “Japanese” is a nationality, and not all Asians on the West Coast were relocated. Resident Germans and Italians also were interned. Moreover, Mr. Fein’s mischaracterization of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s relocation order as “unthinking fright” shows Mr. Fein’s ignorance of the historical record.

For most of 1941, U.S. collection of encoded radio and telephone transmissions in the United States and Hawaii yielded credible information about the willingness of unidentified Japanese-Americans to commit sabotage and/or espionage should war break out with Japan. It was the huge cryptoanalytic success of the supersecret Magic program that informed the United States about that threat at home. The substance of the critical intelligence obtained was far from “unthinking fright.” FDR’s tough decision hinged on whether to neutralize potential saboteurs and spies by moving the whole suspect population or waiting until damaging acts had been committed and then pursuing the perpetrators. As the likelihood of successfully apprehending all the bad actors working undercover was very low and the risk of serious damage was high, the relocation order was signed.

Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, FDR’s Republican opponent in the 1944 election, was going to use the Pearl Harbor intelligence failure and the wholesale relocations as major campaign issues. He was, however, dissuaded by Gen. George C. Marshall, who appealed to Mr. Dewey’s patriotism in safeguarding the precious Magic secret. Mr. Dewey agreed in an act of statesmanship that is rarely duplicated today.



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