Portland's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the internment of Japanese Americans
By Paul Haist
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There's talk in Portland about the city's continued participation in the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Some people don't want the city involved in the group any more because they worry about possible violations of civil liberties, privacy issues especially.
Mayor-elect Tom Potter reportedly wants access to secret records of Portland's participation in the group to date before he decides whether to support reauthorizing the city's participation this month.
City Commissioner-elect Sam Adams also reportedly feels the same way. Commissioners Randy Leonard and Erik Sten are on record with concern, if not reservations, about the task force.
The Oregonian reports that Commissioner Dan Saltzman supports the city's continued participation.
While this issue is occupying inquiring minds in Portland, there are others speaking out in America who seem less concerned about details of civil liberty. They have something else on their mind.
Daniel Pipes is the outspoken and sometimes controversial director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.
Just before New Year's, Pipes distributed an op-ed article in which he addressed why the internment in America during World War II of Japanese-Americans is pertinent today when thinking about the war on terror.
"For years, it has been my position that the threat of radical Islam implies an imperative to focus security measures on Muslims. If searching for rapists, one looks only at the male population. Similarly, if searching for Islamists (adherents of radical Islam), one looks at the Muslim population," wrote Pipes in the lead to his article.
He cited a recent Cornell University study that found significant public support for such profiling in this age of global Islamic terrorism.
Those who oppose such tactics--Pipes identifies them as "leftists" and "Islamists"--are influenced by "a revisionist interpretation of the evacuation, relocation and internment of ethnic Japanese during World War II."
"Although over 60 years past," wrote Pipes, "these events matter yet deeply today, permitting the victimization lobby . . . to condemn in advance any use of ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion in formulating domestic security policy."
He goes on to quote somewhat extensively from Michelle Malkin's recent book, "In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror." The book reportedly debunks or aims to debunk many widely held beliefs about the Japanese internment, including that the camps were like concentration camps and that there was no justification for the program.
Malkin apparently also deconstructs the federal panel that in 1981-83 reviewed the Japanese internment, "'-??the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, was,' Malkin explains, 'stacked with left-leaning lawyers, politicians, and civil rights activists -?? but not a single military officer or intelligence expert.'"
As a rule, we should err on the side of civil liberties and respect for the individual wherever such questions come up in our society.
Whether America was justified in whole or in part for how it treated its ethnic Japanese citizens during World War II may be arguable for some, but the fact remains that they were citizens and their rights were violated and they were altogether dispossessed.
The Jews in Europe at the time also were dispossessed and relocated. But there, the Nazis went light years further. Any such comparison hits a brick wall early on. America was vastly better.
But still, we rounded up our own citizens solely because of their ethnicity.
No matter what the truth is that underlies the myths or common understanding of that chapter of American history today, we would be well advised not to go there again.
There is however, a compelling logic, to use Pipes' example, to limit one's search for a rapist to just half the population. Likewise, it makes sense to concentrate one's watchfulness for Islamic terrorists among Muslims.
To single out a people in this way is contrary to our most dearly held values, if not always our practice throughout history. It speaks well of us that when circumstances suggest this course of action there are many among us who shout, "No, no, no."
Pipes wraps up his article with one further reference to Malkin's argument in favor of profiling, a reference that probably does not need to be communicated to the Portland City Commission as they consider the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
"'These steps may entail bothersome or offensive measures but,' she argues, they are preferable to 'being incinerated at your office desk by a flaming hijacked plane.'"