Muller and Robinson on Malkin

In early August of 2004, Michelle Malkin published her book "In Defense of Internment:  The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror."  Just a few days after I learned of the book's publication, I began posting a review during a two-day guest-blogging stint at The Volokh Conspiracy.   I was soon joined by Professor Greg Robinson of the University of Quebec at Montreal.  After finishing up at Volokh, I continued posting the review, in installments by myself and by Robinson, at my own blog, IsThatLegal.  In all, the review totalled twenty-nine separate posts.

You'll find these twenty-nine posts gathered serially below, in chronological order (from earliest to latest), each under its original title.  The first eleven initially appeared at Volokh (though I later re-published them at IsThatLegal).  The remaining posts appeared at IsThatLegal.

Table of Contents

12. Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part  1
13. Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 2

14. Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 3

15. Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 4

16. Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 5

17. Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 6

18. Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 7

19. More on Malkin from Greg Robinson

20. With Friends Like These...

21. Responding to Michelle Malkin, The Final (?) Edition

22. A Final Word from Greg Robinson on Malkin

23. Robinson

24. Whom to Believe?  Michelle Malkin, or the Canadian Prime Minister?

25. Broadcasting Revisionism.

26. It's Over.

27. Live from the National Archives

28. But Who Ended It?

29. Sometimes You Really Can Judge a Book by its Cover.



Eugene was kind enough to invite me to guest-blog here at the Volokh Conspiracy today and tomorrow, and with the publication this week of Michelle Malkin's book "In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror," it looks as though I'll have plenty to write about. About which to write, I mean. (How many times did my father drill into my head the rule that prepositions are incorrect words to end sentences with?)**

The last couple of days have been a bit of a whirlwind. It isn't every day--or every decade, frankly--that a high-profile person like Michelle (syndicated columnist, frequent FOX News contributor) elaborately defends the eviction and incarceration of some 70,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry from 1942 to 1945 as a military necessity. I got my blog started some 16 months ago when Rep. Howard Coble blunderingly offered his view on a radio program that Japanese Americans were justifiably rounded up because "it wasn't safe for them to be on the streets"--a long-discarded justification for the government's program that Michelle does not see fit to defend in terms (although she generally sticks up for Coble anyway--see page xvii of her book). I would have loved to get a review copy of the book from the publisher, as some bloggers on the right and some warbloggers did, but I didn't. And it's strange that I didn't, given that (a) I'm the only person in the blogosphere who regularly blogs about the government's wartime treatment of Japanese Americans, (b) Michelle wrote yesterday that it was mylengthyexchanges with Sparky at Sgt. Stryker 16 months ago that inspired her to do much of the research for her book, and (c) Michelle cites my work, both approvingly (where, on page 352, she speaks of my "thoughtful" analysis in this article on racial profiling) and disapprovingly (where, on pages 110 and 334, she faults my book "Free to Die for their Country" for "exalting ... belligerent draft resisters" in the camps). Fortunately, my local Barnes & Noble here in Chapel Hill had a copy on Monday, and I was able to read it yesterday, so I'm in a position to say something about it now while the blogosphere is abuzz about it.

I plan to post my reactions to the book serially today and tomorrow rather than posting a single huge review all at once. So, if you're interested in this sort of thing, check back here occasionally. I'll post the first piece of my review--which will pertain to the book's goals and its method--in a couple of hours, when I've got down what I want to say.

In the meantime, a big "thanks" to Eugene for the invitation to guest-blog here again. More soon.

**I know, I know. "With" is a preposition. This was a joke.


OK, I said my first post on the subject of Michelle's book would come in a couple of hours, and would be about the book's goals and method. I lied.

I posted a message on my own blog yesterday that the cover of the book didn't inspire much confidence that the book would be Fair and Balanced. I thought the visual equation of a Japanese American man with Mohammad Atta was a bit, shall we say, scandalous. Michelle disagreed.

Now I know who the Japanese American man on the cover is (Richard Kotoshirodo), and I still say that the cover is scandalous. Kotoshirodo was an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, educated in Japan (making him a "Kibei"--that is, a person born in the US to Japanese alien parents (a "Nisei") and who was sent to Japan for his primary and/or secondary education) who, while employed by the Japanese consulate in Hawaii, was sent out by the consulate to observe various sites of interest to the Japanese consulate in the months before Pearl Harbor and told to report back on his observations.

The book's cover compares this apparentlyly disloyal American citizen of Japanese ancestry who did some surveillance for his employers at the Japanese consulate before Japan's surprise attack to Mohammad Atta, a Saudi citizen who piloted a plane into one of the World Trade towers, killing thousands of civilian innocents. A fair comparison? Not in my eyes. Maybe you see it differently.

One other thing: nobody who looks at this cover in a bookstore is going to have the faintest idea who the Japanese American face is; nearly everyone, it's safe to say, will recognize Mohammad Atta. Coupled with the book's title ("In Defense of Internment") and its subtitle ("The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror"), which sits directly between the two photographs, this cover will, I think, suggest to the ordinary person that American citizens of Japanese ancestry presented World War II America with the same sorts of risks as al Qaeda does today. If that's not a scandalous aspersion on the loyalty and character of Japanese Americans, I don't know what is.

Update: Folks are photoshopping the cover of "In Defense of Internment" over here, if you're into that sort of thing.


In her prefatory note to readers of her new book "In Defense of Internment," Michelle Malkin says the following about the book's goal: 

"This book defends both the evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese from the West Coast (the so-called "Japanese American internment"), as well as the internment of enemy aliens, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, during World War II. My work is by no means all-encompassing; my aim is to provoke a debate on a sacrosanct subject that has remained undebatable for far too long."
Read just a bit further, though, and you'll see that the book is not just about "provoking debate." It's about "correcting the record" (page xv). By the time she finishes her retelling of the story of how the U.S. government decided to force 112,000 Japanese aliens and U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry from their homes and into camps in the interior, she maintains that "it should be obvious to any fair-minded person that the decisions made were not based primarily on racism and wartime hysteria" (page 80), but were based instead on information in top-secret decrypted cables from Japan to its embassies around the world (the so-called "MAGIC" decrypts) suggesting that certain people in the Americas (both ethnically Japanese people, including primarily Japanese aliens but also a handful of American citizens of Japanese ancestry, as well as people of other races and ethnicities) were secretly working as spies for the Japanese government.

In other words, the government did what it did to people of Japanese ancestry in the United States from 1941 to 1945 because a select few officials at the very top of certain branches of the government (really a very few--the President, the Secretary of State, and a few War Department officials, but not the Attorney General or J. Edgar Hoover) knew that the Japanese government had sought to develop relationships with ethnically Japanese (as well as ethnically non-Japanese) people in the United States, and had apparently had some success in developing such relationships. It was cool and calibrated military necessity, not racism and not war hysteria.

I'll have more to say about her substantive claims about MAGIC and racism and hysteria later. (Dave Neiwert has already said plenty about it, by the way.)

First, though, people ought to ask Michelle some very serious questions about the book's goal and the research methods that support it.

I was, frankly, amazed at the speed with which Michelle researched and wrote the book, and then brought it to publication. She mentioned yesterday that she had been led to do much of the research for the book by a weblog dialogue (a "diablogue?") between me and Sparky at Sgt. Styker that took place 16 months ago.

I know that when I undertook to tell the story of a single government decision from this era — the decision to draft American citizens of Japanese ancestry out of the camps and into the military (which is the subject of my book) — I had to spend hours and hours first finding all of the relevant files from all the relevant agencies in archives all over the country, then sifting through those files to find all documents from all agencies and people relevant to the decisionmaking process, and then poring over the documents themselves, in order to link together disparate positions of many different people in many different agencies into a coherent narrative.

In "In Defense of Internement," Michelle "corrects the record" by telling a much broader story about a whole long set of government policies and decisions. She cites to original documents from a staggering number of agencies and offices within agencies--the FBI, the Justice Department, the Office of Naval Intelligence, various branches of the War Department (including G1, G2, and the Provost Marshall General's Office), the State Department, the Military Intelligence Division, FDR's communications, and, of course, the voluminous MAGIC cables.

I haven't checked, but I assume that lots of relevant materials for the story Michelle tells would be all over the country--in both DC-area branches of the National Archives as well as many of its regional offices, in presidential libraries, in the private papers of people like John McCloy and Milton Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt and George Marshall and many others who played a role in this long anc complex story, and in lots of other places.

I can't imagine how Michelle--or, indeed, anyone--could have done the primary research necessary to understand the record, let alone "correct" it in the manner the book attempts to do, in five or six years, let alone in one. Especially while doing anything at all in addition to researching the book (such as writing a nationally syndicated newspaper column). To tell the story correctly, a person would need to sift through thousands and thousands of pages of archival material from all over the country and then piece bits together into a coherent story.

I have a hard time believing that Michelle did anything of the sort. I suspect that she derived much of the information that supports her account from secondary sources, and relies primarily on primary research done (or perhaps not done) by others. (I do not doubt, by the way, that the documents to which Michelle cites actually exist; I'm not suggesting she's making them up. What I suspect--indeed, what I know from my own experience--is that there must be thousands of additional documents in the archives that are relevant to a full understanding of the government's wartime decisions, and that massively complicate the simple story she narrates.

A person certainly can "provoke debate" (uninformed debate, at least) by going about things in this way. But a person can't "correct the record" in this way, or report history in a way that anyone ought to believe. It's just not possible, and it's not credible.


As I continue liveblogging my own thoughts about Michelle's book "In Defense of Internment," I'll note a part of the book where I think Michelle is quite right. In her introduction (pages xiii to xxxv), or at least in certain parts of it, she makes the case that the civil liberties Left and representatives of the Japanese American community have not helped anyone think clearly about the Roosevelt Adminisration's policies by attacking each step of the Bush Administration's domestic antiterrorism policy since 9/11 as a reprise of the worst mistakes of WWII. This was one of the two main points I made in my article "Inference or Impact? Racial Profiling and the Internment's True Legacy," which Michelle graciously cites in her book.

A big part of what drove Michelle to write this book was her disgust with people on the left who have never met an antiterrorism policy they like, and who have trotted out the scary specter of the incarceration of Japanese Americans at every opportunity. In "Inference or Impact," I worried about the Chicken Little effect of repeatedly claiming a replay of the WWII experience of Japanese Americans--that it might lead people to minimize the reality of that experience. Michelle is doing that in this book, and in at least a small way, I think the civil liberties left has some of its own rhetoric to blame. David Cole didn't force Michelle Malkin to write this book, mind you. But maybe some of David's rhetoric helped her build her head of steam.

Now I hasten to add that Michelle is also slaying dragons of her own creation. She's outraged, she says (see pages 95-99), at all of the people who liken the War Relocation Authority's "Relocation Centers" for Japanese Americans to Nazi death camps by naming them with the historically accurate term "concentration camps." (That's what FDR himself called them — see the quotation from FDR on page 21 of Michelle's book.)

I don't have the faintest idea who Michelle is talking about here. I know of no one who compares Manzanar to Auschwitz, and Michelle's book doesn't cite anyone who does so.

Michelle is certainly right that scholars of the Japanese American experience and the Japanese American community itself play games with terminology, sometimes using historically authentic terms such as "concentration camp" while rejecting other historically authentic terms (such as "internment") on the basis that they do not adequately reflect what really happened. (Most savvy people today speak of "incarceration" rather than "internment.")

But Michelle does exactly the same thing, rejecting the historically authentic term "concentration camp" while insisting on using the historically authentic but grossly misleading term "evacuation." (People are "evacuated" in order to protect them from a threat, such as a hurricane or a forest fire. Japanese Americans were evicted from their homes, not evacuated.)

If in fact there were people who compared this country's camps for Japanese Americans to Nazi Germany's death camps, I would certainly understand Michelle's angry desire to set the record straight. My grandfather was in Buchenwald,** and I'd be as outraged as anyone--probably more outraged than most--by the suggestion that this government ran places like that. But--to foreshadow my next post on this topic--the way to counter a comparison of Manzanar to Buchenwald is to describe Manzanar carefully. It is not to compare Manzanar to a Boy Scout Camp, which Michelle comes very close to doing.

More on that later.

**I note that Michelle has set up an "errata" page for the book. Here's one. On page 99, she says that "[h]istorians who compare the American relocation camps to Dachau and Bergen-Belsen will be hard-pressed to find a single European Jew who ... was given permission to leave ... a Nazi death camp." Not so. Nearly all of the German and Austrian Jews (like my grandfather) who were seized at Kristallnacht and taken to Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen in early November of 1938 were released over the following several months. Those who could not get visas out of Germany and Austria were later recaptured and killed (like my great uncle Leopold). But Nazi Germany's policy from the mid- to late 1930s was to "encourage" (by which I mean terrorize) Jews into leaving the country. You can read more about this episode here if you're interested.


OK, enough about research methods and terminology and book covers. Let's get to the meat of Michelle's claim, shall we? Her argument is that intercepted and decrypted Japanese "chatter" about efforts (a small number claimed to have been successful) to recruit Japanese aliens ("Issei") and American citizens of Japanese ancestry ("Nisei") was "the Roosevelt administration's solid rationale for evacuation." (page 141) It's a claim of causation she's making: notwithstanding the scholarship of the last 30 or so years, based on exhaustive perusal of available archival records, which shows the overpowering influence of racism and various sorts of nativist and economically motivated political pressure on the various decisionmakers' actions, these MAGIC decrypts, viewed by only a few of the key decisionmakers, were "the Administration's rationale"--a rationale grounded in military necessity. 

I'll have a fair amount to say about this, possibly later tonight (it has been a long day), and definitely tomorrow. 

Right now, though, I wanted to pass along to you a first reaction to Michelle's book from my friend Greg Robinson of the University of Quebec at Montreal, whose book "By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans" is the definitive scholarly account of the genesis of the Administration's decision to evict and detain all of the West Coast's Issei and Nisei. (Here's a review of Greg's book from The Atlantic online, and here's an excerpt from the book.) 

Several years ago, I wrote a book on the decisions behind the mass removal and confinement of the Japanese Americans, commonly, if inaccurately, known as the internment, and in particular the role of President Franklin Roosevelt. I based it on several years of research in a number of archives around the country. The book was published by the Harvard University Press in 2001. In the time since, I have done further research in this area, which has confirmed me in my conclusions. Since the book was published, I have read a number of critiques by various defenders of Executive Order 9066, especially by bloggers, who seem to constitute a large and vocal group. I have preferred to let the work speak for itself, and I have never before responded to any critics, even when their comments distorted what I actually said. However, I feel that I must break my silence in the case of Michelle Malkin's book.

First, Malkin is a bestselling author whose book is being put out by an established publisher, and her status as a celebrity will make many undiscriminating or unknowing people buy the book and take her arguments at face value.

Also, Malkin, unlike all other writers I have seen, deliberately impugns the motives of those who disagree with her. Although she sets herself up as a disinterested seeker for truth with an open mind, she is gratuitously nasty towards all others: "Unlike many others who have published on this subject, I have no vested interests: I am not an evacuee, internee, or family member thereof. I am not an attorney who has represented evacuees or internees demanding redress for their long-held grievances. I am not a professor whose tenure relies on regurgitating academic orthodoxy about this episode in American history." Well, I am none of these things, apart perhaps from being a professor, and I was not even that when I researched and wrote my book. I am mindful, however, of the wise counsel of Sidney Hook, who in his "Ethics of Controversy" reminded people "[b]efore impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments." Since there is a great deal to criticize in Malkin's arguments from a logical and historical point of view, I will start by focusing on that.

The analysis of the book should start with the material the author includes on MAGIC (the decrypted intercepts of the Japanese code), which by her own statement constitutes the heart of her argument. There is a certain boredom born of repetition in any such discussion, since the author's material is mostly if not entirely lifted from the work of the late David Lowman, to whom the book is dedicated. (As the author states in the August 3, 2004 entry on her blog: "After reading a book by former National Security Agency official David Lowman called 'MAGIC: The Untold Story of U.S. Intelligence and the Evacuation of Japanese Residents from the West Coast during WWII," published posthumously by Athena Press Inc., I contacted publisher Lee Allen, who generously agreed to share many new sources and resources as I sought the truth.") Lowman's work has frequently been refuted and discredited. (Lowman first tried to make the case that the evidence of the MAGIC cables justified Executive Order 9066 in testimony before the Subcommittee on Administrative law and Governmental Relations of the House Committee on the Judiciary in June 1984. At that time, John Herzig, himself a retired Lieutenant Colonel and former intelligence officer, and Peter Irons effectively rebutted his testimony. Lowman did not resurface until 2000, when he put the same information in the book Malkin mentions. According to the Los Angeles Times's review, the editor of Lowman's book himself expressed doubts as to the credibility of Lowman's conclusions.

Since there is nothing new in the author's case for MAGIC, my rebuttal will be brief. (For a more detailed presentation of the matter, John Herzig's "Japanese Americans and MAGIC," Amerasia Journal 11:2 (1984), is still unequalled).

Let me divide it into three parts: first, that the MAGIC cables do not present the image of a Japanese American spy network; Second, that the people who pushed the case for evacuation would not have had access to the MAGIC excerpts in any case; thirdly, that those who did have access to MAGIC did not base their decision on it.

First, an examination of the MAGIC cables provided by the author does not provide any case for implicating the Japanese Americans in espionage activities. Most of the cables discussed (a tiny handful of the thousands of messages decrypted) come from Tokyo or Mexico City and refer to areas outside the United States. Those cables that do speak of the United States detail various efforts by Japan to build networks, and list hopes or intentions rather than actions or results. For example, the author quotes (p. 41) from a January 31, 1941 cable from Tokyo which orders agents to establish espionage and to recruit second generations. It does not say that such recruitment took place, and furthermore that recruitment was to take place even more among non-Japanese. Similarly, the author cites excerpts listing census data transmitted on the Japanese population of various cities--hardly secret information. The author relies most strongly on a memo from the Los Angeles consulate to Tokyo from May 1941. The author claims "the message stated that the network had Nisei spies in the U.S. Army" (p. 44). In fact, the message states "We shall maintain connection with our second generations who are at present in the U.S. Army." This speaks again of agents to be recruited. There is no evidence that any individuals had been recruited as agents, still less that they were actively giving information. Replies back from Los Angeles and Seattle state that they had established connections with Japanese and with "second generations." The rest of the cables she cites recount information given to Japan in fall 1941, long after any discussion of recruiting Japanese Americans had ceased, with no clue as to the source of the information given. The sum total of the information is that Japan unquestionably tried to build a spy network in the US during 1941. It is also clear that the Japanese wished to recruit Japanese Americans, as well as non-Japanese.

Even assuming for the sake of argument that the MAGIC excerpts did show some credible risk of disloyal activity by Nisei on the West Coast, those who made the case for internment did not rely on them. The author herself notes that access to the MAGIC encrypts was limited to a dozen people outside the decrypters, and notably says that President Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy had access to the MAGIC cables. This leaves her in the position of asserting that the essential reflection and decision was made by those three figures, and the reasons or motivations of all other actors were irrelevant. However, the record amply demonstrates that West Coast Defense Commander General John DeWitt (and his assistant Karl Bendetsen) were largely responsible for making the case for evacuation, and that their judgment of the situation and their recommendation for mass evacuation overcame the initial opposition of McCloy and Stimson. DeWitt's motivations for urging evacuation--notably his comment to McCloy that "a Jap is a Jap," and his reliance on arguments about the "racial strains" of the Japanese in his Final Report--indicate that his conduct was informed by racism.

Finally, there is no direct evidence to support the contention that the MAGIC excerpts played a decisive role in the decision of the figures who did have access to them to authorize mass evacuation, and considerable evidence that leads to a contrary inference. Throughout all the confidential memoranda and conversations taking place within the War Department at the time of the decision on evacuation, transcripts which show people speaking extremely freely, the MAGIC excerpts are not mentioned a single time. In particular, there is no evidence that President Roosevelt ever saw or was briefed on the MAGIC excerpts the author mentions, let alone that he was decisively influenced by them. As I detail at great length in my book "By Order of the President," throughout the 1930s Roosevelt expressed suspicions of Japanese Americans, irrespective of citizenship, and sought to keep the community under surveillance. As early as 1936, he already approved plans to arrest suspicious Japanese Americans in Hawaii if war broke out. As of early 1941, before FDR could have received any MAGIC excerpts, the Justice Department and the military had already put together lists of aliens to be taken into custody (the so-called ABC lists). These were not based on suspicion of individual activities, but of the suspected individuals' position in Japanese communities. Roosevelt continued to believe in a threat despite receiving reports of overwhelming community loyalty from the FBI and his own agents, reports he called "nothing much new."

More to come.


If you were of a mind to unsettle the settled understanding of what led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans between 1942 and 1945, and restore some credibility to the now-discredited claim of military necessity, you'd need to do two things.

First, you'd need to make at least a prima facie case of causation--that is, you'd need to persuade people that the various government actors whose actions produced the decision had well-grounded suspicions of subversion by American citizens of Japanese ancestry, and that those well-grounded suspicions of subversion were what led them to take the actions they took.

Second, you'd have to undermine the settled understanding, supported by several decades of comprehensive research by numerous scholars, that racism, economic jealousy, and war hysteria led these actors to took the actions they took.

How does Michelle's book try to accomplish these two things?

As to the first, the book quotes extensively from a handful of decyphered messages (the "MAGIC" cables) about Japanese efforts to develop some Issei and Nisei as spies for Japan. It really all turns on those MAGIC cables. The trouble is that the historical record tells us absolutely nothing more than that Roosevelt, the Secretary of War (Stimson), and his top assistant (McCloy) generally had access to the thousands of messages of which these concerning potential Issei and Nisei spies were a tiny few. The record tells us nothing about who actually reviewed which of the intercepts, or when, or what any reader understood them to mean. The record is just silent on these issues--reflecting, in a way, the silence of the actors themselves on MAGIC at the time. One might well say (and Michelle does), "but they couldn't talk or write about the MAGIC decrypts; they were ultra-secret and everybody was keen to keep them that way." That may well be so. But that doesn't mean we can fill in the silence in the record with our own suppositions about what they must have read and what they must have thought about what they read. In short, Michelle's book presents no evidence--because, apparently, there is none--to show that MAGIC actually led anybody to think or do anything.

And then, of course, there's the much larger problem (suggested by Greg Robinson below) that the program we know as the Japanese American internment was not a single decision but rather a long series of decisions taken over a period of months (or, if you count some of the pre-war prepartion for action against the ethnically Japanese in the USA, a period of years). And we know--for totally certain--that many of those decisions could not conceivably have been influenced by concerns for military necessity supported by MAGIC.

Let's take one example. When you think of the Japanese American internment, what do you picture? People living in the desolate high desert, in tarpaper barracks, under military guard, right?

Do you know how that happened? Do you know how it happened that Japanese Americans ended up spending years in desert camps under military guard, unable to leave without clearance? If you think that any federal government actors (let alone Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Stimson, or John McCloy) made that decision, you're wrong. The federal government, having evicted Japanese Americans from their homes and confined them in the late spring of '42 in racetrack and fairground "assembly centers," wanted to move Japanese Americans to wide-open, unguarded agricultural communities in the interior, modeled after Civilian Conservation Corps camps. But in early April of 1942, the governors of the Mountain States unequivocally rejected that idea, saying (I quote here the words of Governor Chase Clark of Idaho) that "any Japanese who might be sent into [the state] be placed under guard and confined in concentration camps for the safety of our people, our State, and the Japanese themselves." The federal government, needing the cooperation of the states, had no choice but to accede to the governors' demands.

So Japanese Americans ended up going into guarded camps (call them what you will) because Mountain State governors demanded it. Do you think that the governor of Idaho had access to the MAGIC decrypts, and that he formulated his demand for "concentration camps" on the basis of an evidence-based belief of military necessity? Or do you think maybe something else explained it? (Before you answer, consider also that Governor Clark liked to compare people of Japanese ancestry to "rats," proposed that all American Japanese be sent "back" to Japan (where most of them had never been) and that the Japanese islands then be "sunk," and admitted publicly that his views on the subject were "prejudiced" because he didn't know "which Japs he could trust" and therefore "didn't trust any of them." Or consider that the Governor of Wyoming announced that if the federal government went ahead with its CCC Corps Camp plan, there would be "Japs hanging from every pine tree.") Personally, I don't see how the MAGIC decrypts could have had anything to do with the decision to confine Japanese Americans under military guard in camps, which is probably the central feature of what we call the Japanese American internment.

OK, so there's really nothing in Michelle's book to accomplish the first of the things the book needed to accomplish--that is, to make out a prima facie case that MAGIC led to the series of decisions that constituted the program Michelle defends.

What about the second? What does Michelle offer to discredit the copiously documented influences of nativism, economic jealousy, racial stereotyping, rumor-mongering, and hysteria on the series of decisions that constituted the program Michelle defends?

Nothing. Literally not one single thing. Not a sentence.

If a book is going to try to "provoke a debate on a sacrosanct subject that has remained undebatable for far too long" (p. xii), and to "correct" the historical "record," I think the book needs to offer a reader more than this.


As I noted yesterday, in her new book "In Defense of Internment," Michelle Malkin undertakes to "defend ... the evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese from the West Coast (the so-called "Japanese American internment")." (p.xii) ("Ethnic Japanese" here means the Nisei--American citizens born in this country to Japanese immigrant parents who had been forbidden by U.S. law from naturalizing as U.S. citizens because they were Asian.)

Michelle is undoubtedly aware that the two most prominently voiced criticisms of the government's program are these:

1. The government evicted all American citizens of Japanese ancestry from their West Coast homes and placed them into camps, but took no action affecting American citizens of German or Italian ancestry. (In other words, if your name was, say Joe Kaminaka or Lou Matsumoto, you were evicted and confined; if your name was, say, Joe DiMaggio or Lou Gehrig, well, uh, you know.)

2. The actions taken against Japanese Americans were absurdly disproportionate to the scope of any security risks of which the government was even arguably aware.

If you're going to defend the program, this is what you've really got to defend, because this is what scholars most commonly and cogently criticize.

How does Michelle's book handle these two tasks?

The quick answer (a longer answer follows): As to (1), the 165-page text includes a single paragraph (on page 64). As to (2), the book says nothing at all.

Here's the longer answer.

1. Why no similar treatment of similarly situated Americans of German and Italian ancestry? (Why, that is, did Joe Kaminika end up in Manzanar in 1942 while Joe DiMaggio ended up batting .305?) Here's the lone paragraph on the point from "In Defense of Internment":

The disparate treatment of ethnic Japanese versus ethnic Germans and ethnic Italians is often assumed to be based on anti-Japanese racism rather than military necessity. Japan, however, was the only Axis country with a proven capability of launching a major attack on the United States. Some ethnic Germans and ethnic Italians had divided loyalties, but there was no evidence that Germany or Italy had organized a large-scale espionage network akin to the one described by Japan's diplomats in the MAGIC messages.
Moreover, any attempt to evacuate all ethnic Germans or ethnic Italians from coastal areas would have done more harm than good to the war effort because so many Americans had German or Italian ancestry. An East Coast evacuation of ethnic Germans and Italians, as envisioned by General Drum, would have resulted in the relocation of some 52 million people. By comparison, the total U.S. population at the time was 135 million people.
I'm afraid we're into eye-rolling, head-shaking territory here. Nevermind that Michelle tells her reader nothing about the racial backdrop for the government's distinction between citizens of Asian ancestry and citizens of European ancestry--decades of depictions of Asians as a fearsome, robotic, animalistic Yellow Peril.

Item: "Japan was the only Axis country with the capability of launching a major attack on the United States?" Here Michelle contradicts herself, because the book emphasizes repeatedly that Roosevelt, Stimson, and McCloy had good reason (from MAGIC) to worry about potential Nisei involvement not just in a full-blown Japanese attack on the West Coast, but in more ordinary kinds of domestic spying, disruptions of war production, and the like. So why would it appropriately have mattered (if it were true) to the MAGIC-reading trio of Roosevelt, McCloy, and Stimson that Japan could mount a full-blown assault on the West Coast but Germany could not mount a full-blown assault on the East Coast? What's more, it was not true after early June of 1942--before a single Japanese American was transferred for indefinite detention in a "relocation center"--that Japan had the capability of launching a major attack on the United States. The decisive American victory at Midway ensured that. And folks, notwithstanding Michelle's assertion (page xxxiii) that this view of Midway's impact is hindsight, that's just wrong: Newsweek (June 22, 1942), The New Republic (June 15, 1942), The Nation (June 27, 1942), Time (June 22, 1942), and the Los Angeles Times (June 8, 1942) all opined that the Midway victory essentially foreclosed any large-scale sea-based attack on the continental United States.

Item: "There was no evidence that Germany or Italy had organized a large-scale espionage network akin to the one described by Japan's diplomats in the MAGIC messages," says Michelle. Huh? This claim is so easily refuted that it's not worth the effort to spell it out. The only difference between the Japanese espionage operations and the Nazi ones was that we didn't have to decypher intercerpted cables to get a hint of the Nazi ones.

Item: "Any attempt to evacuate all ethnic Germans or ethnic Italians from coastal areas would have done more harm than good to the war effort because so many Americans had German or Italian ancestry." Oh, I see. Because there were so many potential spies and saboteurs along the East Coast, it didn't make military sense to do anything to them. (Remember: it's not just that the government didn't evict and detain Americans of German and Italian ancestry: it's that the government did absolutely nothing to them!)

2. How, from the alleged MAGIC evidence that Japan had successfully recruited certain Kibei (that is, American-born citizens who had resided and been educated in Japan) into spying, did the government (and does Michelle's book) justify uprooting tens of thousands of Nisei (American-born citizens who'd never been to Japan) from their homes and forcing them into indefinite detention in barren camps?

Here's how General John DeWitt justified suspicion of all Nisei in February of 1942: "The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become 'Americanized,' the racial strains are undiluted."

Michelle doesn't say that, though. She just doesn't say anything.

Update:  Allow me, before people jump all over me, to correct one thing I asserted (namely, that the government did nothing to American citizens of German ancestry). The government did act against a number of German aliens--a far smaller number than Japanese aliens--and those actions sometimes entailed the internment of American citizen children of those aliens. What I meant is that the government took no sizeable or programmatic action against American citizens of German ancestry as such.


Professor Greg Robinson, author of "
By Order of the President," has more to say about Michelle Malkin's book "In Defense of Internment": 

Michelle Malkin engages in overkill. Her stated purpose is to prove that the removal and confinement of Japanese American aliens, and particularly of citizens, was based on justifiable fears of espionage and sabotage, rather than racism (and thus to make the case for racial profiling by the Bush Administration). If this were all she wished to argue, she could have stopped with the signing of Executive Order 9066 itself. She could then more easily have made the case that the Army and the Executive felt obliged to act as they did considering the circumstances, though it was a terrible injustice to loyal citizens. After all, how the government's policy played itself out afterwards is logically irrelevant to the initial cause. She would still have been mistaken, in my opinion, about the threat from the Nisei (more on the distinction between the confinement of Issei and Nisei later on) . However, she would have been able to summon up some reputable authority. This was, after all, the retrospective commentary of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, the most influential advocate of evacuation, in the memoir he wrote with McGeorge Bundy, ON ACTIVE SERVICE IN PEACE AND WAR. (P. 406). Because of this, Stimson supported compensation for losses suffered by Japanese American aliens and citizens in the evacuation. (On the other hand, Stimson went on to say that, more than the danger of disloyal activity, the anti-Japanese hysteria on the West Coast was so strong that Japanese Americans needed to be moved to protect them from illegal violence, a statement which throws into doubt Ms. Malkin's insistence that racial bigotry played no factor in the evacuation).

In contrast, Malkin's objective is to defend the government's actions throughout, which means that she goes beyond that those involved believed, all in order to denounce a nonexistent conspiracy among her opponents to create "the myth of the concentration camp." (Like Eric Muller, I am dubious about any campaign among scholars to equate the camps with concentration camps of Nazi Germany. As one who had relatives disappear during the Holocaust, I myself would be unlikely to do so).

Malkin thus follows in the paranoid style of Lillian Baker, the most important internment denier, whose gift to posterity, "The Concentration Camp Conspiracy," likewise charges an immense conspiracy on the part of Japanese Americans to defraud the government and distort history. To be fair, Malkin does not go as far as Baker in claiming that the camps were pleasant places or that the guard towers were for the inmates' protection. Still, her central premise is that the government acted justly in establishing camps to which Japanese Americans were "free to move elsewhere (initially)" "free to leave" and " free to enter". This is a serious distortion. Let us break down her comments.

First, Japanese Americans were, for a few weeks in March 1942, permitted to relocate "voluntarily." However, they were required—in practice, and possibly officially—to have an outside sponsor, and they were given no aid or financing for such a move. Such relocation would have meant families had to sell everything they owned or relying on what they had on hand--the bank accounts of enemy aliens were frozen--and move to an unknown location. Despite this, thousands of Japanese Americans did indeed move East. The vast majority of them, relying on the assurances of the West Coast Defense Command, moved inland to eastern California, only to be caught in the cruel net of involuntary confinement when that area was declared restricted. The author correctly notes that the threat of violence from inland communities made further "voluntary" relocation possible.

She might have gone further, in order to defend the government, to point out that the War Relocation Authority did initially intend to place Japanese Americans in communities outside the West Coast, but that when WRA Director Milton Eisenhower visited a Western Governor's conference, the rabid anti-Japanese sentiment he experienced forced him to shelve his plans and prepare for confinement for the duration. Rather, Ms. Malkin's talent for overkill shows itself in her insistence that hostility from inland Japanese-Americans was a significant factor in striking fear in the hearts of the West Coasters.

To say that people were free to enter the camps is true but irrelevant. In many case non-Japanese spouses of confined Japanese Americans, such as Elaine Black Yoneda, "volunteered" to go to camp to be with their families. As with people who volunteer to be jailed for their beliefs, such actions are a result of (or protest against) injustice and not a denial of it.

Finally, the assertion that Japanese Americans were "free to leave" the camps must be placed in context. The author correctly notes that those with permits who were adjudged loyal by the governments were able to leave. Again, she might have gone on to mention that as time went on the camp inmates were able in many cases to get day passes to go into town for supplies or on hikes. However, the Japanese Americans were held for months without individual trials, hearings, or charges. Until individuals were able to arrange to get paroled through the long, cumbersome and inevitably arbitrary loyalty and sponsorship procedure, they had no way to escape being confined against their will. The WRA, for a number of reasons, was unable to accommodate all those who sought resettlement, and some three quarters of Japanese Americans remained in the camps throughout the war.

So much for Michelle's claim that people were free to relocate out of the zone of forced eviction, free to enter the camps, and free to leave them.


wherein Professor Robinson further disassembles Michelle's assertion of a supposed military necessity to evict and detain all Japanese Americans (but not all German or Italian Americans): 

The author's case for military necessity--she claims there was a "West Coast under siege"--is fatally flawed, as it reposes on her dramatic account of the shelling by Japanese submarines of a refinery in Goleta, California (pp.7-8), which she called "the first foreign attack on the U.S. mainland attack since the War of 1812." (No, it wasn't, actually; Pancho Villa's raid into Columbus, New Mexico set off panic and a large-scale punitive expedition led by General Pershing; but never mind). In fact, as the author states, this event took place on February 23, 1942, four days after Executive Order 9066 was signed, so it could not have played a factor in any of the decisions.

Not satisfied with describing this single (rather minor) incident, the author tries to disguise the lack of concrete military threat by claiming that this incident "was just one of many long forgotten (or deliberately ignored) attacks"(p.9). Long forgotten? Then where are the incident reports and media accounts at the time, when it was well remembered? Deliberately ignored? By whom? By the Californians who were so panicked over the spectre of a Japanese invasion that they spread wild stories that turned out to be untrue? By the West Coast defense authorities who were ready to make the most compelling case for mass evacuation? The author finishes with stories of Japanese submarines roaming free around Hawaiian waters, and mentions two sinkings of boats in the mid-Pacific. How then was the West Coast under siege? As the author confesses by omission, there were then no sinkings of ships by Japanese subs around the area of the West Coast. And if such sinkings in Hawaiian waters did not change the situation in Hawaii, they should not have been responsible for arbitrary action on the West Coast.

In contrast, there was an urgent military danger on the East Coast. Nazi submarines in the Atlantic were sinking Allied shipping at an alarming rate, and Nazi saboteurs landed on Long Island—the last invasion of the U.S. mainland. However, the Army and the Administration did not take steps to intern all German aliens out a fear of collaboration. As Attorney General Biddle, who was responsible for control of enemy aliens, stated in an unpublished section of his memoirs, "There was more reason than in the West to conclude that shore-to-ship signals were accounting for the very serious submarine sinkings all along the East Coast, which were only sporadic only the West Coast...But the decisions were not made on the logic of events or on the weight of evidence, but on the racial prejudice that seemed to be influencing everyone." (cited in Robinson, BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT, p.112).

Robinson's not done yet. And neither am I. One more post from each of us to follow.


Robinson ends where I began, with some comments about Michelle's method: 

Now that I have covered Malkin's central arguments as fallacious, I would like to step back and look at the work as a whole. I do appreciate the author's willingness to take an unorthodox position, and it is good to put the wartime treatment of the Japanese Americans in perspective—I was not aware that GIs were housed in the stalls at Santa Anita after the Japanese Americans had been confined there. Still, Malkin's book is not a useful work of history, but a polemic that relies for its attraction on sensationalism and overstatement. The author lumps everyone who has ever written on the wartime treatment of Japanese Americans into a single homogenous (and self-interested) group and does not discuss their different arguments, or indeed, their disagreements with each other. Such conspiratorial thinking detracts from the merit of what the author does get right. (A minor but indicative point: in one of the two places where my work BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT is cited, the author refers to me as "Canadian historian Greg Robinson." Since the matter of my nationality has no relevance to the point at hand I can only interpret its inclusion as a subtle attempt at discrediting me as a foreigner—in fact I am a born and bred New Yorker, with undiluted fealty to my native land).

The work also suffers from the author's perceptible shoddiness of method. Many of the author's contentions, and particularly her generalizations about popular perceptions (such as that the government confiscated Japanese American property), are barren of footnotes. In her section on the MAGIC intercepts, the author takes over David Lowman's work to the point of plagiarism. Not only does she cite the same MAGIC cables, she even indulges in the same selective quotation of sources such as Roberta Wohlstetter and John Costello in which Lowman indulged. For example, she cites military historian John Costello (p. 37) as saying that "The rising current of fear on the West Coast and the evidence from the MAGIC intercepts were important factors in the President's decision to sign Executive Order 9066," but fails to add Costello's statement almost immediately after that sentence that Executive Order 9066, "enabled the military to start to round up 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans." Thus the author ignores the fact that Costello regarded the Japanese Americans as victims, not instigators, of the Order.

Indeed, if I have been able to reply so quickly to Malkin's contentions, it is because ALL the information she presents on MAGIC was featured in Lowman's Congressional testimony twenty years ago, and were addressed in detail at that time. (Many of the MAGIC excerpts and testimony as to Japanese spies were old even then—they had first been made public in 1946, during the Congressional Committee investigation into the Pearl Harbor attack). The author also has a tendency to contradict herself. For example, she states that the opinion of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on the Japanese Americans was not reliable or relied upon, since he had no access to the MAGIC intercepts that she claims demonstrated spying by Japanese Americans. (In fact, Hoover received detailed summaries of MAGIC information from the Office of Naval Intelligence, whose members likewise opposed mass evacuation). On the other hand, she is quick to quote any negative comment on Japanese Americans by the FBI or the ONI. Similarly, she implies on pages 77 and 126 that the push for evacuation came from President Roosevelt, since McCloy told DeWitt that he had specifically authorized the evacuation of citizens. Yet on page 81 she states that FDR was too busy with directing the war effort to think of such matters, and properly delegated all decisions to Stimson.

I suspect that in some part these contradictions and this cutting and pasting come from the fact that book was written very quickly—the author herself says that she wrote it over a single year in her spare time (presumably not very plentiful, given her daily columns and other work in media). However, much of it clearly is a result of the author's procrustean effort to stretch facts to fit an ideologically predetermined thesis. As a result, there are certain basic facts that Malkin dares not even touch. She does not explain why the Canadian government, whose leaders did not have the benefit of the MAGIC cables which "proved" the existence of Nisei espionage networks, nonetheless went through the process of relocating and incarcerating their ethnic Japanese residents. Furthermore, she does not explain why immediate loyalty hearings were not granted to people of Japanese ancestry, whether citizens or aliens, the way that they were to all other enemy aliens, just as they eventually were to Japanese Americans.

Most of all, the author does not deal at all with the long, extensive, and very well documented history of anti-Japanese-American racism on the West Coast. This absence is so glaring as to constitute bad faith on the part of the author. Malkin tries desperately to get around the question of racism by locating the entire decision in the White House, and in a vacuum. She must be aware that trying to discuss the process of evacuation without mentioning the long campaign by Californians to get rid of the "Japs" or the political pressure on the Administration from West Coast congressmen and commercial groups is unreal--like trying to discuss the origins of the Fourteenth Amendment without bringing in slavery.


My time here at the Volokh Conspiracy is short. Eugene invited me to guest blog yesterday and today; at midnight I turn into a pumpkin and must return to my home at IsThatLegal. I always appreciate and enjoy the chance to guest-blog over here. I know I've been pretty, uh, prolific this time around, and I appreciate the indulgence of those regular Volokh Conspiracy readers who couldn't give a flip about the Japanese American internment.

I'll close with a final observation about "In Defense of Internment." In Michelle's final chapter (page 150), she details what she sees as the many important similarities between the activities of al Qaeda and its supporters today and the activities of Japanese Americans sixty years ago:

"There are parallels between World War II and the War on Terror, but the antiprofilers don't make the proper comparisons. The Japanese espionage network and the Islamic terrorist network exploited many of the same immigration loopholes and relied on many of the same institutions to enter the country and insinuate themselves into the American mainstream. Members of both networks arrived here on student visas and religious visas. Both used spiritual centers--Buddhist churches for the Japanese, mosques for the Islamists--as central organizing points. Both used native-language newspapers to foment subversive tendencies. Both leaned on extensive ethnic- or religious-based fundraising groups for support--kais for the Japanese, Islamic charities for Middle Eastern terrorists. Both had operatives in the U.S. military. Both aggressively recruited American citizens as spies or saboteurs, especially (but not exclusively) inside their ethnic communities. Both were spearheaded by fanatics with an intense interest in biological and chemical weapons."
(Michelle might also have noted in this passage that American citizens of Muslim faith and Arab ancestry have actually pled guilty to charges of attending al Qaeda training camps (the Lackawanna, NY cases) and seeking to levy war against the United States in Afghanistan (the Portland, OR cases). Those, it would seem, are even clearer instances of threat to the United States by American citizens than the handful of vague references about Kibei and/or Nisei in the MAGIC cables.)

Michelle's purpose in writing the book, you'll recall, was to "offer a defen[se] of the most reviled wartime policies in American history: the evacuation, relocation, and internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II." (p. xiii) "Even with the benefit of hindsight," she argues on page 80, "it is not at all clear that mass evacuation [of all people of Japanese ancestry, including U.S. citizens] was unwarranted." Why? Because information (especially from the MAGIC decrypts) about subversive activities by Japanese Americans (which, she notes, happen to be just like the sorts of subversive activities that Arabs and Muslims are engaging in) provided a "solid rationale for evacuation." (p. 141.)

So here's what I don't get.

On page xxx of the book's Introduction ("A Time To Discriminate"), Michelle tells us to "[m]ake no mistake": she is "not advocating rounding up all Arabs or Muslims and tossing them into camps."

She's not?

Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 1

Michelle Malkin has responded at length to the criticisms of her book that Greg Robinson and I posted over at Volokh on Wednesday and Thursday.

I have just a few things to add, and I'll do so as I can during the day today. This evening I'm off to pick up my older daughter from camp, and won't have computer access until Sunday evening.

In my initial comments, I doubted that Michelle had done the sort of intense archival spade work that is necessary to uncover and then write accurate and trustworthy history. Michelle says that I have "challenge[d] [her] book’s goal and research methods because [she] couldn't possibly have read everything that has ever been written about evacuation/relocation/internment."

Well, no, that's not what I said. It would be impossible for a person to read every primary source relevant to "evacuation/relocation/internment," even, probably, in the space of a lifetime. When I wrote my book on Japanese American internees who resisted the draft in WWII, I—like Michelle—relied on secondary sources for learning and then relating the background of my story. But for my story--that is, the unique contribution to the historical record that I intended for my book to make, which was the story of how the government decided to draft the Nisei, how the Nisei responded, and how the justice and penal systems treated those who resisted--I did read everything I could possibly locate. Myself. By traveling around the country to archives, consulting the (invariably skeletal) finding aids that were available, requesting box after box of original documents, and then going through the files in the boxes, one piece of paper at a time, to find every document that was relevant to any aspect of my story. This is the only way to do responsible historical research. You can't rely on somebody else's sense of what's important and relevant. Unless you're looking for a particular well-known item (like the Zapruder film, or something) the most an archivist will tell you is that there might be something relevant in a particular location, and then it's up to you to go through everything in that location yourself to find out whether the archivist's hunch was or was not right.

Here's what Michelle says she did:

As a matter of fact, I did in fact personally sift through thousands of pages of archival material—-from court documents obtained from NARA in Seattle, to War Relocation Authority records stored at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, to stacks of primary documents from the National Archives in College Park, Md. Other scholars and researchers such as Robert Stinnett, Burl Burlingame, Arthur Jacobs, and Col. Lee Allen, were generous enough to share their FOIA treasure troves and personal archival materials with me. I especially recommend Col. Allen's invaluable website here, which contains some 400 documents related to the evacuation/location. Most are primary documents.
I'm curious to know how NARA-Seattle and Bancroft knew what to send. College Park must be just around the corner for Michelle, so I'm curious to know whether Michelle did her reviewing , Sandy-Berger-like (joke!), at the archives, or whether she instead asked that she be sent pre-identified documents and files. Which record groups did she consult, and how broadly did she read in them? How about the archives in the District of Columbia? That's where (among other things) all of the records of the War Relocation Authority are. Did Michelle spend time there with the WRA records?

This might seem like nit-picking, but it's not. It's the most important question a historian can ask: how exhaustive, comprehensive, and open-minded was the research? There's good reason to question that in this case: take a look at Colonel Lee's "invaluable" online "archive" that Michelle says was so helpful to her. Here's how it introduces itself on its welcoming page:
Conventional wisdom concerning this controversial event in American history is that individuals of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and put into American concentration camps in violation of their constitutional rights because the country was overcome with "racism, hysteria and a lack of political will" after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The determined researcher will find that the truth is quite different. A careful review of the documentation in this archive reveals that many Japanese along the West Coast of the U.S. did, in fact, pose a grave security risk to the country.
Then the site notes that it's paid for by Athena Press, the publisher of David Lowman's book about the MAGIC decrypts (on which Michelle also heavily relies).

Folks, this ain't no "archive." The "over 400 documents" that the "archive" brags it has (Boy howdy! 400 documents!) are meticulously selected items from among many, many thousands of relevant archival documents on the subject. And they're meticulously selected, as the website itself claims, to support a particular conclusion about Japanese Americans. Lo and behold, that's exactly the conclusion that Michelle reaches. What a coincidence!

Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 2

It occurs to me now that, in her reply to me and Greg Robinson, Michelle actually conceded that the thesis of her book is unsupported and unsupportable. Here's how:

She notes that I had "point[ed] out that once the decision was made to evacuate ethnic Japanese from the West Coast, many ancillary decisions were made--and MAGIC doesn't explain all or even most of them. True, but beside the point."

Beside the point? Why? Well, because "my book focuses primarily on the policies formed in early spring 1942, when the decision was made to evacuate all ethnic Japanese from the West Coast."

Michelle is not just rewriting history; she's rewriting her book. (And before it has even been officially published!)

Michelle's book (and I quote her from the first page of her introduction, page xiii) "offers a defense of the most reviled wartime policies in American history: the evacuation, relocation, and internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II." Jeez louise, she titled the book "In Defense of Internment," not "In Defense of Evacuation." If the MAGIC decrypts do not explain anything that followed February 19, 1942--that is to say, if the MAGIC decrypts do not explain anything having to do with the detention of Japanese Americans, as opposed to their forced removal--then what does? What, for example, does explain the government's decision to ship 112,000 people off to camps in the interior after the American naval victory at Midway in early June, 1942? And if MAGIC doesn't explain it, then why is Michelle taking it upon herself to defend it?

Michelle concedes that she has no foundation--none--for most of the program she is defending.

Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 3

In her response, Michelle wrote that "[i]t is clear that several actions taken by the Roosevelt administration were directly influenced by MAGIC, including the decision to initiate the evacuation in Bainbridge Island and Terminal Island, which MAGIC messages had identified as high-risk areas."

I'm going to give you an exercise, OK?

It is wartime. You are responsible for insuring the safety of your naval fleet. On the map below, circle the spot from which you would first remove enemy aliens. Please try not to notice the town named "Navy Yard City;" that's cheating.

Did you circle the island across from Bremerton and Navy Yard City with the red star on it? The one that all of the ships would have to pass by? Guess what? That's Bainbridge Island! Nice work!

Hey, wait a minute! If you got it right, why, then, ... you must have had access to the MAGIC decrypts, you sly devil, you. Why else would you have chosen it?

We could do the same exercise with Terminal Island in Los Angeles, the site of a U.S. naval base.

Similarly, Michelle says "there is no obvious explanation for the decision to evacuate southern Arizona other than the May 9, 1941 MAGIC message (sent by Japan's Los Angeles consulate) which showed that Japanese operatives intended to monitor cross-border traffic."

Same exercise. Your job is to protect the country's exposed western flank. Draw a line to identify a strip along which you might want to scrutinize enemy aliens more carefully.

Hey, what's with that totally arbitrary line you drew across southern Arizona? Oh, wait, you must have looked at that one MAGIC decrypt that brought to your attention the otherwise counterintuitive idea that Yuma, Arizona, was as vulnerable as San Diego, California.

Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 4

One of the two or three most significant historical claims that Michelle makes is that it was Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy who pressured others in the War Department for wholesale eviction of all people of Japanese ancestry because of his access to MAGIC.

In 1992, Kai Bird, a distinguished biographer, published The Chairman, a definitive 663-page biography of McCloy.

Here's what Bird has to say about McCloy and MAGIC:

"The signing of Executive Order 9066 later came to be regarded as one of the most controversial decisions associated with McCloy's career. . . . More than any other individual, McCloy was responsible for the decision, since the president had delegated the matter to him through [Secretary of War Henry] Stimson. . . . Why ... did McCloy become an advocate of mass evacuation? One answer is simple racism, particularly evident in Stimson's attitudes. Another is that McCloy and Stimson were 'led by the nose by second-rate people like Colonel Bendetsen.' And it was true . . . that at the time, McCloy was 'distracted and distraught with a large number of problems.' But he also possessed a unique combination of predilections that made him particularly vulnerable to Bendetsen's and [Provost Marshall General] Gullion's arguments [for mass evacuation]. [Gullion] had convinced him that the enemy would inevitably engage in sabotage. Ever since Amherst and his enthrallment with the military-preparedness movement, he had been instinctively swayed by national-security arguments. Theoretical objections to strong action on civil-libertarian grounds were indications of soft thinking. . . . "Another major factor was McCloy's exposure to intelligence sources. Some observers in recent years have cited evidence of Japanese American disloyalty in such special intelligence resources as the Magic intercepts. There is no doubt that McCloy was reading Magic intercepts of Japanese diplomatic traffic at the time of the evacuation decision. But, as in the question of how much warning the Magic cables should have given him regarding the attack on Pearl Harbor, it is difficult to determine whether this intelligence information was a factor in his thinking. McCloy himself, in testimony before a congressional commission forty years later, did not mention the intercepts. "Only a handful of Magic cables, out of thousands intercepted, might have conveyed the impression that Tokyo had recruited both alien Japanese and Japanese American citizens for espionage work. . . . "Prior to Pearl Harbor, there had been no systematic analysis of Magic intercepts. So any references McCloy saw in the Magic intercepts to Japanese American espionage were fleeting and impressionistic. A meticulous analysis of the intercepts, in fact, would have shown that the intelligence information cabled back to Tokyo came almost exclusively from 'legal' espionage conducted by Japanese diplomats out of their embassy and consulates. Even the covert, 'illegal' espionage coordinated out of these Japanese consulates was not very sophisticated or extensive. One Magic intercept, for instance, reveals that, as late as May 1941, the Japanese Embassy was reporting that 'only about $3,900 a year is available for actual development of intelligence . . .' The few agents hired were invariably Caucasian Americans or German nationals. "Whereas such Magic evidence was highly ambiguous, McCloy also had access to intelligence that firmly dismissed the potential for sabotage. . . . "It is hard not to conclude that McCloy allowed his fears of sabotage and his penchant for decisive action to sweep aside any other considerations." (from pages 154-56)
In earlier pages of the biography (145-51), Bird depicts McCloy as racked by indecision about what sort of action to take against ethnic Japanese--and favoring far more narrowly targeted action than that ultimately taken--until as late as February 6 to February 10, 1942. He says that it was unremitting pressure for mass eviction from Provost Marshall General Gullion that finally led McCloy to settle on that course of action.
Michelle dedicates her book to the memory of John McCloy (and David Lowman). But Kai Bird's biography of John McCloy does not appear in her bibliography.

Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 5

Michelle can't understand why I question her assertion on page xxx that she's "not advocating rounding up all Arabs or Muslims and tossing them into camps."

"As I make plainly and thoroughly clear in both the lengthy introduction and conclusion," she says, "I am advocating narrowly-tailored and eminently reasonable profiling measures."

Here's the thing, though: Michelle could defend narrowly-tailored profiling measures without taking on the additional burden of defending the wholesale eviction and detention of an entire ethnic group from the West Coast during World War II. Why, then does Michelle go to the trouble of defending and justifying that program? If internment was, as she contends, the right thing to do in 1942, and given that yesterday (to take one very recent example) a naturalized American citizen of Arab ancestry and Muslim faith in Albany, New York, was arrested at a mosque for trying to buy a stinger missile, then why is internment not the right thing now?

Why is Michelle not advocating internment?

Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 6

Greg Robinson adds another word or two:

It has been a fascinating experience participating with Eric Muller in this blog critique of Michelle Malkin’s book. I am a bit dizzy from the effort of writing and distributing, and receiving the responses. I credit Eric and Michelle Malkin equally with impressive energy and rapidity of composition, neither of which I generally have. There is little that I need to say by way of rebuttal to the comments ion my critique posted by Malkin (although she refers to me as “Greg,” I do not feel I know her well enough to call her Michelle, never having met her). On most matters, either she tacitly agrees with what I wrote, restates her erroneous conclusions, or tries to elide my point. In regard to points that require further clearing up, I will make a brief rebuttal now and save more for Suanday. 

Regarding Malkin’s defense of her use of MAGIC intercepts, the only thing that the few dozen intercepts prove, as I noted, is that Japan was anxious during 1941 to create a spy network , among Japanese Americans but principally among non-Japanese, and that agents of Japan furnished various data (in the few cases where the source of such data was identified, it was someone other than a Japanese American). The Redress Commission did consider the question of MAGIC, which it specifically found irrelevant to Japanese Americans. As an addendum to PERSONAL JUSTICE DENIED points out, the MAGIC cables instructed Japanese agents to emphasize recruitment of groups other than Issei and Nisei, particularly “Negro, labor union members, and anti-Semites”, since if there was any slip, the whole network might be exposed and Japanese Americans would be subjected to considerable persecution. (p.472). 

Malkin does not respond to my criticism of her case for the military necessity of mass evacuation, which relies on the shelling of Goleta by a Japanese submarine on February 23, 1942. Since this was 12 days after mass evacuation was approved by President Roosevelt and four days after Executive Order 9066, it cannot have impacted the decision. Instead, Malkin repeats her claims on pp. 90-92 of her book, namely that “the Goleta shelling and the famous “Battle of Los Angeles” air raid scare a few days later precipitated the forced evacuation of Terminal Island in Los Angeles harbor, which, by the way, had been singled out in MAGIC messages as a hotbed of Japanese espionage activity.” 

This would be irrelevant even if it were true, since Terminal Island was taken over by the Navy, which did not support mass evacuation, and did not affect the larger decision, but it is not. In fact, Terminal Island was ordered cleared of its alien population on February10, and the Navy took it over on February 14, giving all the area’s residents a month to move. On February 25 (right after the shelling incident and before any air raid scare) the Navy changed its mind and ordered all the residents out on 48 hours notice. So the least that the shelling could have done in any case was to change the timetable for evacuation of Terminal Island, not inspire it. Even that much is doubtful, since those who were removed from Terminal Island were allowed to settle elsewhere in Los Angeles. If there had been spies and saboteurs who represented a threat, one would have assumed that they would have been removed wholesale from the region. 


Responding to Michelle Malkin, Part 7

Greg Robinson, the author of "By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans," continues his dialogue with Michelle Malkin:

It is amazing what a little sleep (though only a little) can do. I am flabbergasted by the number of blogs that have already picked up on Eric Muller’s and my critique of Michelle Malkin’s work “In Defense of Internment.” I am likewise impressed by the professional attitude the author took in the response she made on her website, and by her courtesy in stating that she encouraged her listeners to read Eric’s and my criticisms. I believe that Malkin’s conclusions are mistaken and even dangerous, but I respect the interest she has demonstrated in a fair historical debate, and it is in this spirit that I wish to make a few further rebuttals to her response. (In answer to the Malkin admirer who accuses us historians of refighting past battles while Malkin moves forward—it is my role and my responsibility to address Malkin’s ideas about the events of World War II, where I can claim expertise. I do not address the conclusions she draws from them about current events, except to say that improper historical interpretation will not aid the formulating of wise current policy).

1. My main point against Malkin’s contentions is that the MAGIC intercepts do not show any evidence that Japanese Americans were ever employed as agents by the Japanese government’s intelligence network, and that even if the cables has shown credible evidence of Japanese American spying it did not factor into the decision. I came to this conclusion after a thorough review of the evidence. To save the readers of my book BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT from what I considered a non-issue, I simply cited to the debate. Malkin’s attempts to challenge me on this point are unavailing. (I stated that Malkin lifts her case for MAGIC from the work of David Lowman. She says that she discussed cables that Lowman did not address; if this is so, I apologize for my misstatement; but at the same time Malkin freely admits my larger point, that her argument and her evidence are taken wholesale from Lowman, and indeed it is obvious that I could not have responded to her evidence so rapidly had the cables and the unfounded charges based thereupon, not already been specifically presented and refuted.)

The evidence Malkin cites from MAGIC in her response simply confirms that Japan created a spy network during 1941, which fact is not in doubt. Indeed, the raid that the ONI, let by Lt. Comm. Kenneth Ringle, made on the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles early in 1941 provided extensive evidence about Japanese spying. Ringle was thus in an especially informed position to say that Japanese Americans did not pose a threat of disloyalty after Pearl Harbor. I do not have any reason to doubt that the information from the MAGIC cables as a whole was very influential on policy, and that it made people wary of Japan. However, I find considerable evidence that both before and after Pearl Harbor, Army and government officials unthinkingly and prejudicially equated Japanese Americans with Japan. McCloy himself suggested during his redress testimony that the confinement of Japanese Americans was revenge for Pearl Harbor.

2. In regard to who made the decision to evacuate, Malkin claims:

"Greg ignores my discussion of this issue (see pages 76-77), where I cite Army documents demonstrating that DeWitt was following the lead of McCloy, not vice versa. As for DeWitt, I point out that the use of the term "Jap" was common at the time, even among those who opposed the evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese (see page 337). Too much has been made of DeWitt's Final Report, which is basically a cover story. The most important reason for the evacuation—MAGIC—was classified at the time and so could not be disclosed until after the war ended."

I am unimpressed by Malkin’s claims that Assistant Secretary McCloy was the leading figure in evacuation, and DeWitt (whose racial bias is well established) merely took orders from him. Even before examining her evidence, it defies credulity in any military system not to rely on the commander on the spot. Indeed, a large part of the reason that mass removal did not take place in Hawaii, where the President and the Secretary of War actively favored it, is that, unlike DeWitt, Hawaiian Commanding General Delos Emmons opposed mass evacuation. (More on that below).

Similarly, if DeWitt had merely been McCloy’s creature, he would not have dared oppose (as he did) McCloy’s effort to back creation of a Japanese American combat unit and McCloy's insistence that Nisei soldiers be allowed in the excluded West Coast zone.

In any case, the evidence she points to is dated February 8 and 11, 1942, comes several days after January 29, 1942 when, as is well established, DeWitt made his demand to the War Department for “evacuation” of both Issei and Nisei. The documents the author cites seem to refer to McCloy’s request that DeWitt provide a specific claim of military necessity for mass evacuation and a plan for effecting it. McCloy remained uneasy about the constitutionality of removing Nisei as well as Issei, and he thus asked DeWitt to come up with something concrete. DeWitt responded on February 14, with his Final Recommendation. The fact that McCloy and Stimson (and Roosevelt, who the author claims directed the case for evacuation) even asked DeWitt for such a showing of necessity effectively rebuts the author’s entire case that removal was based upon the MAGIC cables, since if they were already in possession of the all-important information that DeWitt was not, they would not have needed such a top secret internal justification.

3. Malkin is similarly unable to touch my point that her case for military necessity for Executive Order 9066 is built on a rather minor event that occurred four days after the order was signed, and that she provides no other evidence of incidents or threats to the West Coast. Upon my calling her on this, she provides an impressive citation:

"Milton Eisenhower wrote in his autobiography that the historian Stetson Conn 'reports that there had been no Japanese submarine attacks or surface vessels anywhere near the West Coast during the preceding months'(p. 103), referring to the time period prior to January 1941. In fact, Conn said there had been no Japanese submarine attacks during the preceding month, meaning the month between late December and late January. See Milton Eisenhower, The President Is Calling (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1974) and Stetson Conn, 'The Decision to Evacuate the Japanese from the Pacific Coast' in Guarding the United States and Its Outposts (Washington DC: U.S. Army Center of History). The Conn report is available online at"

This is perfectly true: Conn, a leading critic of the Army’s decision to intern, says that there had been no submarine attacks during the month between late December and late January 1942, when the Army’s decision for mass removal was made. He says nothing else one way or the other. There is still no evidence that there were any incidents or attacks in the time that followed, still less that they influenced the Army’s decision.

I might note that one of the sentences of my critique was garbled in transmission. I meant to say that, based on the fact that Malkin shows no evidence of any sinkings near the West Coast, we are to assume that no such sinkings took place. One of Malkin’s defenders jumped on this point and lectured me that 12 ships were sunk off the West Coast. I know that there were sinkings in the Pacific, but I do not know where—I cited Attorney General Francis Biddle, after all, to the effect that there were sporadic sinkings of ships in the Pacific. In any case, as Biddle notes, it was hardly a threat compared to the horrendous loss of shipping in the Atlantic (at one point in 1942 the Germans were sinking Allied shipping faster than it could be built). This nonetheless did not force the Administration to take ANY arbitrary action against all German aliens, still less US citizens of German extraction. Malkin’s attempt to divert attention from this fact by the assertion that Germany was no threat because it had no aircraft carriers is self-evidently absurd.

4. Malkin is unprepared to face directly the paradox of there being a race-based mass removal on the West Coast but not in Hawaii, where the military situation was immediately grave. So grave, in fact, that, as I mentioned above, President Roosevelt and Navy Secretary Knox (and to a lesser extent Secretary of War Stimson) began to press for mass evacuation long after Hawaii was already under martial law. Thus, martial law (which, the author correctly notes, conferred shockingly broad and arbitrary power on the military) was not in the minds of these men an adequate substitute for arbitrary action against the local Japanese. Military considerations were not paramount in the Hawaiian case, since otherwise pressure for mass evacuation in Hawaii would have reached their height immediately after Pearl Harbor—particularly in view of the Niihau incident she cites (though without noting the presence of Japanese Americans among the troops that apprehended the malefactors). It would have logically subsided after Midway as well.

5. Nor is Malkin’s boast about her unrefuted testimony helpful for understanding:

". . . the intelligence memos of late 1941 and early 1942 from the FBI, ONI, and MID, which stated repeatedly and unequivocally that ethnic Japanese posed a bona fide national security threat. Maybe my critics think the results were 'cooked' by FDR, just as some critics of George W. Bush allege about the current CIA's pre-war intelligence. I don't know because Eric and Greg didn't say one word about the intelligence memos, which have been reprinted in my book for every lay person to read for himself/herself. Taken in totality, rather than in selective slivers, my defense of Roosevelt’s homeland security measures remains unrefuted.”"

One might agree about “cooked intelligence” and selective consultation of sources, especially in view of the ONI’s and FBI’s opposition to Executive Order 9066. In any case, the information she cites about the Tachibana and Hawaii spy rings is largely beside the point, since those were shut down many months before Pearl Harbor. Indeed, it was precisely the success of American intelligence to defuse the threat that gave the FBI such confidence that any danger could be dealt with. The fact that Hoover received summaries of the MAGIC data, irrespective of his knowledge of its source, proves that he was well-qualified to judge the threat posed by the Japanese Americans.

6. This point brings up particular danger in the author’s work. She speaks several times of “ethnic Japanese” as if unable to distinguish between the long-established resident Japanese American communities and the temporary Japanese visitors such as Japanese consular officials and other spies. U.S. government officials certainly made the same confusion at the time, showing particular disregard for the very real differences between them (a disregard which in their case I would consider as informed by racism). Worse, Malkin slips easily back into the targeting of the Nisei as “dual citizens,” and thus innately Japanese. This was a canard of nativists in California and Hawaii, designed to justify stripping them of their American citizenship. The citizenship conferred on the Nisei by their ancestral country, like that of children of many other immigrant groups, was nominal. Even then, ethnic Japanese communities united in campaigns for denaturalization of these children. This as well as other attempts by the Nisei to prove their "Americanness" during the prewar period, including through military service, belied any sense that the Nisei were essentially Japanese.

The author points out correctly that a significant fraction of the Nisei, the so-called "Kibei," received their education in Japan. Some elected to remain, and one individual even became a spy for Japan. At most this suggests, as Lt. Commander Ringle advocated, that the Kibei be specifically watched. (Of course, hindsight tells us that even that might well have been overdoing things in view of the fact that many Kibei, whose knowledge of Japanese made them superb military translators, proved to be outstanding patriots once given the chance to prove their loyalty).

7. Malkin does me the courtesy of restating in her response my comments about how excessive she is in her descriptions of the camps. Still, assuming that Malkin’s blanket statements about the nature of the camps are properly qualified by the points that I made, then it seems that she and I largely agree on the nature of the confinement of Japanese Americans. The WRA camps were not, in fact, comparable to the Nazi death camps (and to avoid any such confusion, I have tended to avoid whenever possible using the term “concentration camp” in my work to define them, despite its technical validity). What the Japanese American camps are, instead, comparable to is to various (true) concentration camps, such as those that were established for Boers in turn of the century South Africa, and those established for Gays and Lesbians in Castro’s Cuba. They provided for arbitrary and indeterminate confinement based not on individual guilt but group membership.

The United States certainly was much kinder to its confined Japanese than were the Canadians. The WRA did indeed provide schools, newspapers, and hospitals, and it tried, without much success, to preserve such property as people had not already lost or been robbed of. Most people joined in to try to make things as pleasant as possible under the circumstances. However, The camps were spartan and uncomfortable, and the inmates were forced to work at salaries that were fixed at a discriminatorily low rate of compensation ($19 month as the absolute maximum, compared to, say, $150 per month for Caucasian teachers providing the exact same work.) Dissent was limited, and arbitrary confinement produced internal tensions and family breakdown among the inmates.

In any case, the question of conditions in the camps is largely beside the point of why Executive Order 9066 and its aftermath was deplorable. As I said in BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT, “the internment was not simply an error of official overzealousness but a tragedy of democracy. Its human costs, in the blood and suffering of its victims, were insignificant compared with the military casualties of World War II or with the millions slaughtered on the Rape of Nanking and in the Nazi death camps. Even within the history of the United States, the treatment of the internees pales in comparison with the enslavement of African Americans or the destruction of Native American nations. The special stain of the internment is that an unpopular group of American citizens was singled out on a racial basis and summarily dispossessed and incarcerated." (pp.5-6).

8. Japanese Americans, even American citizens, were not granted the same privileges of hearings that German and Italian aliens were. Period. If the government had contented itself with mass removal of the Issei, it would still have been arbitrary (especially since the Issei, unlike other enemy aliens, were barred from naturalizing themselves and thereby both protecting their rights and proving their loyalty) but it would not have been so clearly based on racial factors as was a policy that assumed that American citizens were disloyal based on their ancestral heritage. Period.

I do not consider that Malkin has squarely met my arguments about her omissions in this regard. It would have been possible to hold such hearings while the Japanese Americans were in the Assembly Centers, and it would have been no more or less constitutional or useful than the hearings that actually took place during 1943 and thereafter. Moreover, General DeWitt, (in the draft of his Final Report that was censored by Assistant Secretary McCloy), made clear that lack of time was not a factor in the refusal to hold hearings, but rather the impossibility of telling a “loyal Japanese” from a disloyal one on racial grounds. (Even if we adopt for the sake of argument Malkin’s desperate and absurd attempt to call the Final Report a fiction designed to cover up the truth of MAGIC, any such need for concealment would not have touched that point).

There is no evidence (and this after the inquiry of many scholars) that MAGIC had any relation whatsoever to the Canadian internment, which was openly predicated on racist hostility to Japanese on the Canadian West Coast, and in the absence of such evidence the Canadian experience must be seen as a mirror of the racism and hysteria that fostered the similar developments south of the 49th parallel.

9. Finally, in response to my point that Malkin does not address the role of the long history of anti-Japanese American racism on the West Coast in events, she responds dismissively:

"As I explain above and in the book, there have been hundreds of books and dissertations on this topic. Why repeat what has already been said hundreds of times?"

It is ridiculous to say, as the author does, that because there is a preponderance of evidence of hysteria racial hostility towards Japanese Americans on the West Coast —and that the pressure from West Coast political figures and commercial groups in Washington pushed the Executive branch in important ways-- that this need not be factored into the decision. It is for this reason that I stated, and I repeat, that Malkin’s work is based in bad faith.


More on Malkin from Greg Robinson

Greg Robinson, author of "By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans," just sent me the following comments, not so much on Malkin's book itself (though there's some of that) as on what some are saying about Malkin's book and about the Japanese American internment.

Note especially the very interesting comparison Greg draws between what officials did or did not do with pre-internment intelligence and what officials did or did not do with pre-September 11 intelligence. This is not a point I've seen made before, and I think it's an excellent one.

Michelle Malkin’s book bases its entire argument in favor of racial profiling on the premise that it was justified in the case of the removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans. Having done my part as a historian to show the illogical and factually unsupported nature of the arguments Malkin deploys to support this position, I had intended to avoid further comment, not least to avoid giving free publicity to such a book. However, Malkin’s book has encouraged a group of insistent bloggers and blog commentators, particularly a man who calls himself “Bob”, to pepper all the sites that feature a discussion of Malkin’s work with a common set of arguments (often identically worded) in defense of her position. To be sure, Malkin’s defenders do not all attempt, as she does, to justify the ultimate policy of removal and indefinite incarceration. Rather, the crux of their position is that Executive Order 9066 itself was based not on hysteria or racism but on the actual situation at the time, and that we cannot say now that the government leaders were wrong to react to the information they had.

I do not feel it necessary to restate my objections to Malkin’s individual arguments. However, this new position needs to be carefully addressed, since it can otherwise muddy a great many waters and spread confusion.
Before addressing the specific factual basis of this argument, the first thing to say about it is that it seems curious, and rather suspicious, that those who use it support Malkin’s larger thesis about the wisdom of ethnic profiling, instead of citing it to refute her. Why? Because even if we accept for the sake of argument that it was taken in response to a plausible threat, the government’s action only proves the unreliability of race-based selection and the danger of relying solely on ethnic or racial factors in assessing risk. Mass removal was subsequently shown to be unnecessary—-Japanese Americans contributed widely to the war effort, the FCC discredited General DeWitt’s claims of shoreline signalling of Japanese ships, and American occupation authorities in Japan after the war studying Japanese documents found no evidence of giant spy rings. Moreover, the vast majority of those involved—-from Assistant Attorney General Tom Clark to Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron to California Attorney General Earl Warren—-subsequently declared the policy to have been a mistake. As early as the Eisenhower Administration, long before there was an active redress movement, Attorney General William Rogers issued an official statement apologizing for the government’s error. Even Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy supported legislation during the postwar years granting reimbursement to Japanese Americans, aliens or citizens, for their property losses during evacuation. McCloy told Congress that such a law “is only an appropriate form of recognition for the loyalty which Japanese Americans as a whole evidenced to the country during the war.” 

The second thing to say about arguments of those who defend Executive Order 9066 is that they have the burden of proof not only that evidence of an actual threat existed (as they claim the MAGIC cables do—-a claim I have previously called into serious question) but that it guided the conduct of those in government. This must be shown by direct evidence. It cannot simply be assumed, with the burden of proof on the other side. The 9/11 commission’s work demonstrates the fallacy of saying that since documentary evidence existed, and that government officials had access to it, they must have seen it and reacted accordingly—-the President and his advisors had access to evidence that Al-Qaida planned to attack but did not act on it. Similarly, arguments claiming to be based solely on evidence available at the time must not beg the question of intent. To put it simply, people have a tendency to find what they look for--if Japan appeared to Americans to be a bigger threat than Germany, it was a natural result of the fact that government leaders had concentrated their prewar efforts on investigating Japan. One is reminded of the military chiefs at Pearl Harbor who were so fixed on combating the imagined threat of sabotage by local Japanese Americans that they clustered American aircraft on the ground, with the result that American aviation was wiped out by Japanese bombers in the first stages of the attack. 

Finally, the existence of a plausible threat does not foreclose judgment of the government’s response based on the nature of the actions. That is, even assuming for the sake of argument that the Army acted in response to a genuine concern about disloyalty by Japanese Americans, we can say that racism or hysteria informed its response if its actions were disproportionate or arbitrary--for the historian, all is NOT fair in love and war. The Army chiefs assumed that people of Japanese ancestry posed an undifferentiated threat and made no serious effort to devise a more limited policy or to balance evacuation against other defense needs (such as farm produce). Indeed, since the West Coast military summarily moved out all people of Japanese ancestry, including babies and orphans who could not conceivably have been connected to Japan, the claims for military necessity must be questioned. 

Furthermore, the government’s decision to remove the West Coast Japanese cannot be isolated simply to the time it was decreed, with no attempt to factor in either later information or later events. (Malkin herself accepted this, at least initially, and thus attempted to justify the indeterminate incarceration that followed, but she has since shifted her position at various times towards the fallback argument of stopping with Executive Order 9066.) If excluding Japanese Americans from the West Coast in Spring 1942, was simply a military decision, it would follow that it was a military necessity to keep them excluded in 1943 and 1944, even after the Army had established hearings to determine the loyalty of the Japanese Americans, and the threat of Japanese invasion was sufficiently distant that the West Coast ceased to be a defense area. I have grave doubts that Malkin’s defenders can explain away all the evidence of racial bias by the military. 

(This said, we must be careful not to read backwards in our judgments. For example, the fact that some 15 percent of those in the camps, after being summarily confined for a year, refused for various reasons to swear unqualified loyalty to the government that confined them does not mean that 15 percent of Japanese Americans in the prewar era were actively, or even passively, disloyal. The importance of the inmates’ immediate circumstances in shaping their responses is starkly indicated by the enormous fluctuation in the percentages of people who refused to affirm their loyalty in the different camps.) 

Even without these other considerations, the arguments that form the basis of the claim that Executive order was a rational response to a military threat do not withstand scrutiny. As the great journalist and critic H.L. Mencken famously said, there is a simple solution for every problem, neat, plausible, and wrong. This is such a case, as a serious examination of the Malkinites’ fallback position shows. 

This position, such as I understand it, can be fairly summarized briefly thus: 

Premise A. The government acted reasonably in its “ethnic profiling” and removal of Japanese Americans, irrespective of citizenship, because: 1. The United States had reason to fear Japan in early 1942, as Japan had control of the Pacific Ocean, and was sinking U.S. ships. Unlike Germany and Italy, it had the capacity to invade the United States. 2. There was evidence that Japan had created a spy network. 3. Since ethnic Japanese in the Philippines had supported the Japanese invader, it could be assumed that Japanese in the United States would do so too. American citizens of Japanese ancestry in Japan supported the Japanese cause, while Japanese aliens in the United States expressed support for Japan. 

Premise B. The removal policy was not racist, because. 4. Japanese Americans were removed only from the West Coast, the sole zone which was threatened, and not from other areas of the country, and since other Asians were not removed. 5. There was no mass ethnic-based removal in Hawaii because martial law had been declared. 6. There was no mass ethnic-based removal of German or Italian aliens or because it was unfeasible. 7. The Supreme Court upheld mass removal in the Korematsu case, which means that the Justices accepted the government’s characterization of its reasons, and Korematsu remains good law. 

Premise A relies on exaggeration and a failure to contextualize. The United States was indeed at war with Japan, and the Japanese had taken over the Western Pacific, but (as David Niewert points out) it is hardly accurate to say that Japan controlled the Pacific. In any case, by this logic Japan was a threat from the time of Pearl Harbor, so if the loyalties of Japanese Americans were suspect based on their prewar conduct, why did the Army wait two months to advocate their removal-—two months during which time, military officials conceded, there were NO reports of sabotage or espionage. Most importantly, Japan did not pose a greater threat than Germany, whose subjects (let alone U.S.-born descendants) were not likewise targeted for wholesale removal. In fact, Japan was considered a lesser threat than Germany (hence the Allies’ Germany-first strategy). German U-Boats sank hundreds of allied ships, and the threat of air raids by German planes was taken seriously. Germany, too, had a spy network, and unlike Japan it could rely on its own subjects and their descendants. 

I have not made a study of the conduct of ethnic Japanese in the Philippines, but I do know that their case was little discussed, if at all, in the debates leading up to Executive Order 9066. After all, these were people who were not United States citizens or people who had spent their entire lives in the United States, as the Nisei were. The actions of American-born Japanese who lived for many years in Japan and were subjected to various pressures from the Japanese government is likewise scarcely relevant to the ideals and loyalties, let alone actions, of those who chose America. Even if there were many Issei and some Nisei who favored Japan in the prewar years, the two countries were not then at war. The potential danger they posed was magnified because of their racial difference. To take an obvious contrary case, although Charles Lindbergh was widely perceived as pro-German because of his prewar isolationism, and FDR himself privately stated his certainty that Lindbergh was a Nazi, he was not interned once war was declared, and indeed he volunteered in support of the American war effort. 

Premise B, despite its surface plausibility, relies too much on ignoring conflicting evidence to be sustainable. Mass evacuation was indeed limited to the West Coast. That is, however, where 90 percent of mainland Japanese Americans lived, where the historic prejudice against them was strongest, and where the mass campaign for their removal was centered. It is also where General DeWitt, with his racial bias, was in command. In any case, it is just as plausible to say that the evacuation’s being limited to the West Coast proves that hysteria and racism underlay it than the contrary position, for if Japanese Americans were potentially disloyal, why were those outside the West Coast not equally dangerous? 

It is likewise no argument to say that because other Asian groups were not subjected to arbitrary action, the government’s policy was not racially based. American mass media and military propaganda made a distinction along national lines between “good Asians” (like the Chinese) and “bad Asians” (like the Japanese). 

I have already discussed the fact that martial law was declared in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, while President Roosevelt and Navy Secretary Knox pushed (unsuccessfully) for mass removal and/or incarceration in Hawaii at least through early 1943. Whatever the basis of their campaign, it at least proves that the existence of martial law did not persuade these leaders that mass removal was unnecessary, so it could not have been in itself the reason that no such removal occurred. 

The question of why Japanese Americans and not German and Italian aliens (let alone Americans of German or Italian ancestry) were interned is too complex to be reduced to a question of feasibility, or simple numbers. While there were clearly too many German aliens nationwide to be easily rounded up, those on the West Coast could have been, and indeed General DeWitt was prepared to do so once the removal of Japanese Americans was completed, and was forbidden to do by the White House. In any case, the concept of “feasibility” is itself inextricably tied up with racism. That is, if the Japanese Americans, unlike Germans and Italians, could be moved without stirring up opposition and affecting morale, it was because popular prejudice against them was strong enough to make possible arbitrary action. 

Finally, the nicest thing that can be said about the Korematsu decision is that it reflects the Court’s historic deference to the Army and Executive in times of war, and not a reasoned agreement with the government’s evidence. Indeed, during the 1980s federal judges overturned the convictions of Korematsu and the other Japanese American defendants because of a pattern of government misconduct and tampering with evidence during the trials. As was discovered in the early 1980s, when West Coast Defense Commander General DeWitt drafted his Final Report, he explained that his reasons for instituting mass removal was the alleged impossibility of telling a loyal Japanese American from a disloyal one. This draft, which set forth DeWitt’s authentic recital of the reasoning underlying his policy of mass removal, was suppressed by Assistant Secretary of War McCloy. McCloy ordered DeWitt to destroy all copies of his draft and to prepare a new one which would present the claim that evacuation was necessary only because there was otherwise insufficient time to determine the loyalty of individuals. Similarly, the FCC and other government bodies had informed the Justice Department that General DeWitt’s claims that Japanese Americans had engaged in shore-to-ship signalling, which lay at the center of his case for evacuation, were unfounded. Rather than report this to the Court, the Justice Department concealed this evidence from the Justices.

Oh, and one more thing about the notion, advanced by some who have commented on this blog, that Korematsu is still good law: Justice Antonin Scalia has said that Korematsu ranks alongside Dred Scott in the history of constitutional law.

With Friends Like These...

In her book "In Defense of Internment," Michelle Malkin wants to rehabilitate the claim that the internment of Japanese Americans was based on real military necessity. She says she's out to debunk a contrary "myth" about the Japanese American internment spun by "professor[s] whose tenure relies on regurgitating academic orthodoxy" and "ethnic groups looking to justify their existence."

Michelle's myth-bashing work is repackages the ideas and research of the late David Lowman, whose book "MAGIC: The Untold Story of U.S. Intelligence and the Evacuation of Japanese Residents from the West Coast during WW II" in a sense "broke" the story of the MAGIC cables. She dedicates the book to Lowman's memory.

Here are excerpts from what a historian has recently said about the claim of military necessity that Michelle's book parrots:

Lowman fervently believes that the raw [MAGIC] intercepts speak for themselves and trump other sources of intelligence on the Japanese American community. However, the messages speak more of intentions than results. . . .

The hints contained in MAGIC, if decisionmakers paid them any heed at all, were not by themselves sufficient to justify the mass evacuation and incarceration of over 100,000 civilians. . . .

Lowman's book rehashes old arguments and gives a tortured reading of the available intelligence sources. He errs in giving absolute primacy to communications intelligence, no matter how ambiguous. His polemics should be viewed as symptomatic of the lingering bitterness stemming from Pearl Harbor and the emotions raised by apologies and compensation.

Surely another leftie academic or some ethnic with an axe to grind, right?
The author is James C. McNaughton, Command Historian of the U.S. Army, Pacific, in an article that appeared late last year in the journal "Army History: The Professional Bulletin of Army History." The journal is published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History, which is located at Fort Lesley J. McNair.
You can read the rest of McNaugtons's take-down of Lowman's work here.
When the Army's military historian rejects a claim of military necessity, I'd say that claim is in some pretty deep doo-doo.
But I'm just a professor who regurgitates academic orthodoxy. So what do I know?


Responding to Michelle Malkin, The Final (?) Edition

Michelle Malkin:

"After some two dozen posts and nearly 18,000 words [Muller and Robinson] still have not explained why, if internment, evacuation, and relocation were driven primarily by racism and wartime hysteria, our intelligence agencies were so concerned about Japanese espionage on the West Coast."
The nub of our disagreement sits right there, in that one sentence.
Nobody doubts that Americans in general and military officials in particular were frightened of attacks on the US mainland and on US and allied shipping along both coasts.  Nobody doubts that Japan and Germany wanted to set up espionage and sabotage relationships in the US with both their own nationals and others (including, but by no means limited to, children of their nationals.)  And nobody doubts that in a few instances they were successful in doing this.  The Tachibana Ring in Los Angeles is a well documented example.  The "contacts" with "second-generations" implied in a couple of the MAGIC cables are a much, much vaguer and more questionable example (because we have no idea who they're referring to, or whether the authors of the cables were doing anything more than bragging to the home office, or whether McCloy, Stimson, and Roosevelt actually focused on those couple of cables).)

So of course they were "concerned."  Why wouldn't they be?
But what did they do with those concerns?  How did they understand them?  How did that understanding differ from their understanding of similar concerns about other racial or ethnic groups?  How can one account for the scope of what they recommended as a remedy for their concerns about people of Japanese ancestry?  How can one account for the difference in scope and mechanism of what they recommended as a remedy for those concerns, as compared to what they similar concerns they had (or for which there was ample evidence) as to other ethnic groups?  How can one ignore the impact of the overwhelming political pressure applied on the military by people and groups who had no access to intelligence of any sort?  How can one account for the multitude of decisions about the conditions and duration of confinement and the continuation of exclusion from the Coast that were made by federal and state officials other than the trio of Roosevelt, Stimson, and McCloy for months and even years after Roosevelt signed off on Executive Order 9066?
When I was in college, late one evening a good friend of mine appeared at my door, pale, panicked, and out of breath.  I asked her what was wrong, and she said she had run from her apartment, which was about 4 blocks away, because she had seen a mouse.  She was terrified to be in the apartment and wanted me to go in and see if I could find it.  We went in, and while we were looking around, a dust bunny blew out from under a couch.  She shrieked, thinking it was a mouse.
See the parallel?  No, folks, I'm not comparing the attack on Pearl Harbor to a mouse.  I'm making a point about the impact that the irrational has on how we perceive dangers, and on how we decide what steps we need to take to respond to them.  There really, truly was a mouse in her apartment, and she had really, truly seen it.  Suddenly she found herself running alone down a city street at 11:30 at night for four blocks, because of some story that she had deep in her mind about the terrors of mice.  Then she found herself screaming at a dust bunny.

Did a mouse cause her to be frightened?  Initially, yes.  Was it the mouse that caused her to tear out of her place and run to mine?  Or was it instead thoughts and feelings she had about mice in general?  Was it a mouse that caused her to shriek once we got back to the apartment?  No, it wasn't; it was a dust bunny.  Her thoughts and feelings about mice caused her to misperceive what she saw.

"Racism and wartime hysteria" cannot be stashed in some hermetically sealed container, apart from the supposedly cool calculus of rational military planners.  So it's not that people in or out of the military saw nothing to induce fear of Japanese sabotage.  It's that people perceived and reacted to what they saw through the lens of panic and racism.  And it's the latter that explains what <span style="font-style:italic;">actually</span> ended up happening, as opposed to what might have ended up happening.

Three other things:

1.  Malkin asks at the end of her post whether I can be understood to be supporting the "locking up" of all Kibei (American citizens of Japanese ancestry who were sent to Japan for some or all of their education before the war).  I didn't suggest that; what I told Cathy Young was that "there were valid reasons, both in intelligence information and from what was generally known, for the government to take some sort of protective action touching Japanese aliens and most probably at least some of the so-called 'Kibei.'"

Hmmm.  I say "some sort of protective action" as against "at least some" Kibei.  She hears "lock 'em up!"  Itchy trigger finger, I'd say.  The idea of "locking them up"—and of doing it to all of them—comes from Malkin, not me.

On the careful question that Michelle did not ask--whether, with Congressional authorization, and after hearings before a neutral arbiter, the military would have had the power to impose milder restrictions than incarceration (for example, exclusion from narrowly drawn military areas and prohibition on employment in defense industries) on an individual basis as to a subset of Kibei who had had spent most of their lives in Japan as well as the subset of German Americans (if there were any) who had spent most of their lives in Germany—I think the answer is probably "yes."  I suspect that some scholars to my left might disagree with me on that.  (I hasten to note, by the way, that some Kibei (even some with long experience in Japan) played crucial roles in the U.S. military during World War II, especially in intelligence.)

2.  Malkin continues to insist that only the ultra-secret MAGIC decrypts (as opposed to basic map-reading skills) could possibly have explained the military's decision to choose as their first target the people of Japanese ancestry who lived on Terminal Island (in the LA area) and Bainbridge Island (in the Seattle area).  "Even if one assumed for the sake of argument," says Malkin, "that Bainbridge Island was an obvious focal point within the Puget Sound, Muller’s thought experiment still does not explain why military authorities singled out Los Angeles and the Puget Sound rather than, say, Portland or San Francisco. Despite Muller’s effort to suggest otherwise, the MAGIC cables still remain the most plausible explanation."  How about the fact that there were huge naval shipyards at Terminal Island and directly adjacent to Bainbridge Island, whereas Portland had no shipyard and the nearest one to San Francisco was thirty miles up the coast?

Similarly, Malkin maintains that the failure to make Eastern Washington State an exclusion zone shows that it was intelligence from MAGIC that caused General DeWitt to make southern Arizona an exclusion zone.  What Malkin does not note is that to our north, along the border with Washington, the Canadians were doing exactly the same thing to their citizens of Japanese ancestry and Japanese aliens that we were doing to ours.

3.  Malkin asks whether I've read the tens of thousands of messages in the multi-volume compendium of decrypted MAGIC cables.  I have not.  (Of course, I have also not written a book about how the decision to uproot Japanese Americans was made, as, for example, Greg Robinson has done; my book is about how the government decided to draft interned Japanese Americans from behind barbed wire in to the army.)  I instead thought it safe to rely on her and on David Lowman to select the messages that implied the involvement of American citizens of Japanese ancestry.  Assuming that the relevant ones were the ones that Malkin and Lowman reproduce in the appendices to their books, I read those.  Is Malkin really suggesting that there are additional MAGIC cables that bolster her case for "vast networks" of Nisei spies, but that she chose not to mention or reproduce?

A Final Word from Greg Robinson on Malkin

Greg Robinson, author of By Order of the President, sends along this final word:

I have very little to add to Eric's comments on Michelle Malkin's "final rebuttal."  He hits the nail on the head. Malkin sums up her whole presentation on the reasons for the wartime removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans by asking how it was, if these events were prompted primarily by racism and hysteria, that military authorities and intelligence sources were so worried about security.
Of course, American authorities were concerned by the threat from Japan, and rightly so. However, the primary concern of the knowledgeable authorities was sabotage by Japanese agents who were Caucasians, or Japanese infiltrated into the United States, NOT Japanese Americans. Rightly so, once again. Of the 19 people ultimately convicted of being Japanese agents, 18 were Caucasian. None was Japanese American .
Those who opposed mass evacuation of Japanese Americans were not uninformed about the situation on the West Coast or sentimental about Japan. On the contrary, it was <span style="font-style:italic;">precisely</span> their profound understanding of the nature of the threat that enabled them to say with confidence that Japanese Americans were loyal, and that any necessary action could be handled by the relevant authorities, so mass military removal was NOT warranted.  J. Edgar Hoover, in a report to the President in November 1941, warned of the espionage activities on the West Coast of Japanese agents disguised as "language officers." However, Hoover also reported that the Japanese were so suspicious of the Nisei that they would not only not use them, but ordered those who booked passage to Japan followed on the suspicion that they were American agents.  It was Kenneth Ringle of the Office of Naval Intelligence, the outstanding defender of Japanese Americans, who led the raid on the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles in March 1941 that enabled American authorities to learn of Japanese intelligence operations, presumably including the Tachibana ring.
Malkin asks, if the Japanese American were not a threat, how it was that two defense zones, Terminal Island and Bainbridge Island, were created on the West Coast.  As I explain in BY ORDER OF THE  PRESIDENT, it was Curtis B. Munson, Franklin Roosevelt's special agent--the same Curtis Munson who claimed that Japanese Americans were overwhelmingly loyal--who was indispensable in recommending that San Pedro be turned into a defense area to guard against potential sabotage. As a result, on November 27, 1941, ten days before the Pearl Harbor attack, the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor Naval Defense Sea Area was created.

Greg Robinson responds to Michelle Malkin:
I have twice started a point-by-point response to Michelle Malkin's latest comments, and twice stopped. Malkin has elided or failed to respond to the basic critiques Eric Muller and I have made, and I fear that the only result of my responding will just be to prolong a debate in which everything has been said.
Malkin's whole operation, and the logical gymnastics involved, reminds me of nothing so much as the attempts of scientists in past ages to defend the Aristotelian thesis that the Earth was at the center of the solar system and that planets moved in perfect circles.  Scientists such as Ptolemy devised extremely complicated and ingenious sets of formulas to describe aberrations in planetary orbits such as retrograde motion (apparently backwards motion) among the outer planets, including describing orbital paths made up of circles within circles.  When Kepler and his successors substituted the heliocentric model, in which the Earth and other planets orbited the Sun, and abandoned the search for perfect circles, they discovered that each planet's orbit could be described by a simple ellipse pattern. However, the geocentrists refused to accept this accurate and clear model, since it violated their religious faith, and they continued to devise overly complicated explanations for observable phenomena.
In the same way, Malkin and her defenders, to serve their tendentious political argument, are forced to jump through logical hoops and exclude from consideration actual evidence that would, to the average observer (as well as to generations of researchers) most easily account for events.
Most notably, Malkin disregards the primary role in events of West Coast military figures, political leaders, commercial groups and opinion makers, since the evidence of anti-Japanese racism and hysteria in their actions and motivations is so overwhelming as to be irrefutable.  As a result, they are forced to invent a vast conspiracy in order to explain events--the prewar MAGIC cables (which offer no direct evidence of espionage by Japanese American agents). They must then assert that these prewar cables--and not the views of those actually on the West Coast--were fundamental to the ultimate decision.
Without the MAGIC cables as ultimate motor, Malkin's entire thesis tumbles. Yet, the conspiracy she outlines does not fit the observable evidence--there is not a single mention of MAGIC among the various Top Secret papers discussing the case for mass removal of Japanese Americans, and no positive evidence from the period that they played any role whatever in the government's views of Japanese Americans.  If it had, those who had access to the MAGIC cables--President Roosevelt, Secretary of War Stimson and Assistant Secretary McCloy--would have supported mass removal of all West Coast Japanese Americans immediately after Pearl Harbor.  With such certain knowledge, they would not have needed to wait for two months, for most of which these they openly opposed mass removal (or, in the case of FDR, authorized efforts to defend loyal Japanese Americans).
I am unable to discern how Malkin's charges about MAGIC, and the evidence she adduces to support them, differ in substance from those formerly made by David Lowman, and I defy her to prove otherwise, as I defy her to show concrete evidence within the MAGIC intercepts that the "vast" network she claims of Japanese American agents ever existed. Where are the names, or at least descriptions, of the informants?
Whom to Believe?  Michelle Malkin, or the Canadian Prime Minister?
Michelle Malkin's revisionist telling of the story of the Japanese American internment turns crucially on one supposed military fact:  Franklin Roosevelt and his top military brass feared a Japanese assault on the West Coast.  This, she claims, rather than prejudice, panic, or economic or political pressure, explained their decision to uproot American citizens of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, while taking no programmatic action anywhere against identically situated Americans of German or Italian ancestry.   And, she argues, it explains why Roosevelt and his Secretary of War and Assistant Secretary of War took so seriously a couple of ambiguous references in top-secret decrypted Japanese diplomatic messages referring to the recruitment of "second generation" Japanese spies.

Greg Robinson of the University of Quebec at Montreal has pointed me to the excerpt from Canadian Prime Minister MacKenzie King's diary that you see in this post.  It's from June 25, 1942, and reflects a conversation that King had with Roosevelt in Washington during a meeting of the Pacific War Council.  (It doesn't reproduce clearly on this page; click on it to get a clearer image.)

According to King, Roosevelt "said he thought the Japanese were foolish in thinking we would be much affected by these attacks they were making on the Pacific Coast.  That it was not likely to alarm the people unduly but rather to strengthen their feeling of resistance.  It was clear that he, himself, did not contemplate much in the way of an attack on our Pacific Coast but felt that the possession of the bases at Kiska [in the Aleutian chain] and elsewhere were to help to meet the situation that might develop between Japan and Russia."
Admittedly, this is not Roosevelt's diary; it is King's.  But it is a far, far clearer window into Roosevelt's thinking about military risks than the suppositions--for that is all Malkin can muster--about which decrypted messages Roosevelt must have seen and what he must have thought they meant in the context of what he must have feared about a Japanese assault on the West Coast.

One other thing:  before people start shouting about the American victory at Midway in early June of 1942, and about how the military situation on June 25, 1942 (when he spoke to King) was different from the situation on February 19, 1942 (when he signed the executive order authorizing the military to take action against Japanese Americans and others on the coast), consider this:  seven of the ten permanent relocation centers for Japanese Americans in the U.S. interior were not yet open (indeed, had not yet even been built) when Roosevelt talked to King.  (Camp opening dates:  Granada (Colorado): 8/27/42; Heart Mountain (Wyoming): 8/12/42; Jerome (Arkansas): 10/6/42; Rohwer (Arkansas): 9/18/42; Minidoka (Idaho): 8/10/42; Topaz (Utah): 9/11/42; Gila River (Arizona): 7/20/42.)

Thus, Robinson and I have shown--again--that at the time the government was still developing the bureaucracy and infrastructure of confinement, the Commander in Chief did not himself believe the "military necessity" rationale that Malkin imagines for him.

UPDATE:  It's rare that I comment here on things people say in the comments, but I just couldn't let this one go by.  Many readers of this blog might not bother with the comments, but those who do will know that two people--"Bob" and Commander W.J. Hopwood--have vigorously defended Malkin's thesis in message after message for the last several weeks.  After I posted MacKenzie King's diary from June of '42, Commander Hopwood was notably silent.  Then, late this evening, he posted this:

"The extent of FDR's participation in the evacuation decision was to authorize Stimson and McCloy to "go ahead and do anything *THEY* thought necessary under the circumstances." (My emphasis. See Conn-"The Decision to Evacuate the Japanese from the Pacific Coast.") Thus he deferred to the judgment of his military subordinates such security decisions as what to do with the West Coast Japanese."

So up until now, what has mattered has been Roosevelt's access to MAGIC; now, confronted with evidence that Roosevelt did not fear an assault on the U.S. mainland, Commander Hopwood ditches Roosevelt and says that it's Stimson and McCloy (but not DeWitt!) who matter.

This is what we call a "full retreat."

Broadcasting Revisionism.

Rather than just complaining (as I've noted, justifiably) about its rhetoric, Timothy Burke is thinking carefully about the substantive point of the historians' letter to the media about Michelle Malkin's "In Defense of Internment."

He attributes Malkin's success in drawing uncritical attention from the major media to two things:  (a) her saying something contrarian about a matter of current interest, and (b) her being mediagenic.

He then says this:

Taking all this into account, the Historians' Committee for Fairness still has a valid fundamental point. How do you decide what's worth covering and not covering? Because not everything that is contrarian and potentially mediagenic gets the coverage&mdash;the coverage without, for the most part, attention to the dissenting views of others&mdash;that Malkin has. To put it bluntly, why does Michelle Malkin get on television and David Irving, the infamous Holocaust revisionist, not get on television? Irving's argument that the Nazis did not actually set out to exterminate the Jews is factually detailed and it's certainly contrarian, and he's actually somewhat creepily mediagenic. . . .
The Historians' Committee for Fairness may have gone about their task the wrong way, but they're entitled to an answer to this question from the media that have given Malkin a hearing. What makes her work worthy of coverage when work of equivalent shoddiness and offensiveness is regarded as absolutely off-limits?
Timothy Burke's point about David Irving and Holocaust revisionism deserves a moment's reflection.  Let's consider a hypothetical.  Suppose an author were to publish a book revisiting the pogroms across Germany in November of 1938 that we know as "Kristallnacht."  Suppose that author's thesis went something like this:  "Yes, German and Austrian Jews certainly and regrettably suffered in the attacks of November 9 and 10, 1938, and in the incarceration of some 26,000 in concentration camps for a period of many weeks that followed.  We have seen, time and again, the images of the broken storefront windows and the burning synagogues that the Jewish grievance community and politically correct academics want us to see.  We have been led to believe that this was an unprovoked outburst of baseless hatred on the part of the German people.  But what Jews and academics do not tell you, and do not want you to know, is that the so-called Kristallnacht had a real cause:  A Jew did, in fact, murder the German official Ernst vom Rath in Paris on November 7, 1938, at the German Embassy, and documents from the time show that Josef Goebbels knew this and saw the murder as proof of a larger Jewish threat to the Reich."
This, in the context of the Holocaust, is the precise analogue of Malkin's thesis about the Japanese American internment.  Please note that I'm not suggesting that Malkin herself believes or has ever said any such thing about Kristallnacht specifically, or the Holocaust generally.  I am sure she does not believe such a thing.  I am also not comparing Kristallnacht to the eviction of Japanese Americans.  I am instead making a point about the nature--the architecture, if you will--of her argument.  It is this:  you have been led to believe that what seems to be a groundless, racist government action lacked any foundation and can therefore be explained only as an expression of hatred, but that is not so; in fact, there was a real threat to the government that supplied a foundation for what they did.
So, to return to Timothy Burke's observation:  suppose that a mediagenic author were to publish such a work.  Would MSNBC, CNBC, Fox, C-SPAN, HBO, and countless radio programs present that work at all?  If they did so, would they present it uncritically, and without rebuttal?
Of course they wouldn't.  And so the question is:  why the difference?
A couple of possible answers suggest themselves to me, and neither is very attractive.
One is that it's easier for us to recognize malevolence in others' ancestors (the Nazis) than in our own.  Thus, what seems incontestably unjustifiable in the history of others remains debatable in our own.

The other is that Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren (full disclosure:  I am one), and the Jewish community more generally, would not countenance an unrebutted presentation of such a work in the major media, whereas the Japanese American community is to some extent still (as it was 60 years ago) a safe target for such an assault.

In the end, Timothy Burke is right:

"If the people who make decisions about programming and content at the talk shows want to tell me and other historians that they wouldn't put Irving on the air because what he says in his work is factually specious and untrue (which it is), then they're telling me that they make these decisions based either on their own personal and professional assessments of the factual truthfulness of works of non-fiction, or they make these decisions based on consultation with experts about what is reasonable, plausible, debatably true work and what is poor, scurrilous, offensive lies. If this is true, the question becomes potent: why is Michelle Malkin on the air now? Because if talk show producers consult experts on internment, they'd certainly find that almost everyone thinks Malkin's work is shoddy and inaccurate, quite aside from its ethical character. If talk show hosts read and assess work independently to decide whether it is worth covering, then I'm hard-pressed to understand why they think Malkin's is legitimate.
And if they just put people on the air because they're mediagenic and interestingly contrarian, I again ask: why not Holocaust revisionists? What sets the boundaries of the fringes, and doesn't the expert assessment of intellectuals and scholars matter in that boundary-setting?"
Update:  The comments have started to pour in, as I knew they would, calling me vile and reprehensible for comparing Michelle Malkin to a Holocaust revisionist.  A careful reader of what I wrote will, I am confident, understand what I actually do.  I construct a hypothetical about one episode from 1938 Nazi Germany about which there is historical consensus.  (I set aside the disagreement that actually seems to exist over whether Grynszpan shot vom Rath in enraged protest or because the two had been lovers.)  I imagine a book that depicts the consensus as a "myth" by a similar mode of argument, and with a similar type of evidence, that Malkin's book uses to depict the consensus about the internment as a "myth."  I postulate that such a book about 1938 Nazi Germany, published today, would not receive uncritical attention from American major media.  And I ask why Malkin's has, and suggest a couple of possible answers.
To those who are rushing over to my blog to call me names for insulting Michelle Malkin, I hope that on their way over they'll think for a moment about the insult that Malkin's book represents to many thousands of loyal, patriotic, and innocent Americans of Japanese ancestry who had to endure the questioning of their loyalty 60 years ago, and now, thanks to Malkin's book and the uncritical attention the media has lavished upon it, are having to endure it again.
FURTHER UPDATE:  Sujal at FatMixx suggests some additional answers to the questions I raise here.
It's Over.
If Michelle Malkin is feeling some pressure on her shoulders this morning, it may not be the stress she's under; it could be the walls of the corner she has now backed herself into.
Responding to Vox Day, she says this:
"I will agree with Mr. Vox about one thing. The risk of a full-blown invasion of the U.S. mainland was low. This was known at the time. As I made clear in my book, the principal concern was spot raids on the West Coast (such as the one that occurred at Pearl Harbor), not a major invasion."
This reminds me of the moment in our online debates (scroll to "Part 5") when Malkin conceded that the MAGIC cables had nothing to do with the decisions that the government made concerning Japanese Americans after February 19, 1942 (which is to say, the decisions that actually determined that Japanese Americans would be indefinitely detained--which is to say, the program that she purports to be defending in her book "In Defense of Internment").

With this morning's concession that the concern along the West Coast was Japanese spot raids and not a Japanese assault, she blows up the case for distinguishing between the Japanese threat to the West Coast and the German threat to the East Coast.  And along with it, she blows up her claim that military necessity caused the government to take action against American citizens of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast while imposing no restrictions of any sort on American citizens of German ancestry on the East Coast (except insofar as they were dependents of German enemy aliens).

And just to short-circuit the silly response that some are now itching to type in my "comments" section (which they can only do here, since Michelle turned off the comments function on her blog just before her book was published), let me note that I am talking here about government policy that by its terms focused on American citizens.  The government had such a policy for Japanese Americans, and it didn't for German Americans.

And if you're still of a mind to argue that the logistics of removing and interning German Americans along the East Coast was what caused the difference in treatment, then please point me to the less intrusive, more logistically feasible restrictions that the government imposed on all German Americans along the East Coast.  Just don't spend too much time looking for them, because there weren't any.

Live from the National Archives

I am blogging from a public access terminal in the main reading room of the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Sandy Berger just walked by and I noticed a big bulge in his pants, but it may be that he was just happy to see me.

Actually, I'm here doing a day of research for a book project.  While here, I thought I'd take a look at the Justice Department file in the case of Kenji Ito, a Japanese American lawyer in Seattle who was arrested the day after Pearl Harbor and tried in March 1942 for having made public speeches from the late 1930s through early 1941 without registering as an agent of Japan.

He was acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury in Seattle on April 1, 1942.  (Note the date, location, and racial make-up of the jury.  This is not unlike a black male teenager's being acquitted of raping a white woman by an all-white jury in Alabama in 1920.)

Why am I interested in Ito?  Well, for a bunch of reasons, not the least of them that in her book "In Defense of Internment," Michelle Malkin turns Ito into a virtual poster child of Nisei treachery, making him out to be a central figure in the "vast networks of Nisei spies" she is always going on about these days.

My review of the Justice Department's lengthy file on Ito (which, incidentally, I suspect Malkin didn't even bother to look for,** even though it's here in College Park, just a few miles from where (I think) she lives) confirms that Malkin's treatment of Ito is total smear job.  I'll have much more to say about this, in some venue or other, in the future.

But I wanted to share with you the very first document in the file--the one that sits on top when you open it.  It's a memorandum dated July 16, 1943, from Francis Biddle, the Attorney General of the US, to J. Edgar Hoover (FBI Director, of course) and Hugh B. Cox, an Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department.  It refers to the program of "dangerousness classifications" under which FBI and DOJ had, before and after Pearl Harbor, compiled dossiers on people (including U.S. citizens) and ranked them according to their "dangerousness."  It was on Ito's classification as a "Class A-2 Dangerous" person that he was apprehended within 24 hours of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Here's what the Attorney General said:

After full re-consideration of these individual danger classifications, I am satisfied that they serve no useful purpose. . . . There is no statutory authorization or other present justification for keeping a 'custodial detention' list of citizens.  The Department [of Justice] fulfills its proper functions by investigating the activities of persons who may have violated the law.  It is not aided in this work by classifying persons as to dangerousness.

Apart from these general considerations, it is now clear to me that this classification system is inherently unreliable.  The evidence used for the purpose of making the classifications was inadequate; the standards applied to the evidence for the purpose of making the classifications were defective; and finally, the notion that it is possible to make a valid determination as to how dangerous a person is in the abstract and without reference to time, environment, and other relevant circumstances, is impractical, unwise, and dangerous.

For the foregoing reasons I am satisfied that the adoption of this classification system was a mistake that should be rectified for the future.  Accordingly, I direct that the classifications heretofore made should not be regarded as classifications of dangerousness or as a determination of fact in any sense.  In the future, they should not be used for any purpose whatsoever.
Would that Michelle Malkin had bothered to look at this file, and had seen the last sentence of Biddle's memo, before assassinating Kenji Ito's character.

**note from above:  The reason I say that I doubt Malkin saw this file is that (a) she references it nowhere in her book, and (b) she indicates in the book that she obtained her information about Ito's from court records obtained from the National Archives branch in Seattle, not from the prosecutor's files in the National Archives here in College Park.  If in fact Malkin obtained this file, but chose simply to ignore its contents because they don't further her cloak-and-dagger fantasy about Ito, then I'll stand corrected, at least as to the assertion that she didn't bother to take the short drive over here to look at the file.


But Who Ended It?

Two quick responses to Michelle Malkin's aptly titled post "The End of a Reasoned Debate":

(1)  She says this:

Muller has grandly declared victory ("It's Over") because I "conceded" that the Roosevelt Administration was primarily concerned about hit-and-run raids on the West Coast rather than a massive amphibious invasion. Sorry to pop your bubble of self-delusion, professor, but this was no concession. It's the exact same argument I made in my book. I wrote on page 12: "While a full-scale Japanese invasion of the U.S. mainland was considered unlikely, hit-and-run raids were, in the view of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, “not only possible, but probable in the first months of the war, and it was quite impossible to be sure that the raiders would not receive important help from individuals of Japanese origin.”
The trouble for Malkin is that she also wrote this on page 84:
The disparate treatment of ethnic Japanese versus ethnic Germans and ethnic Italians is often assumed to be based on anti-Japanese racism rather than military necessity.  Japan, however, was the only Axis country with a proven capability of launching a major attack on the United States.
This is why her concession that what the USA risked was Japanese "spot raids" is so devastating to her anti-racism thesis.  If what the USA faced was spot raids along the West Coast, it faced identical (indeed, more serious) threats along its East Coast, where, incidentally, there were lots of open pro-Nazi sympathizers as well as out-and-out spies.  (I was amused yesterday, in looking at a huge box of about 30 Justice Department investigations of subversive activity from early 1942 to find in it one file against a Japanese American (Kenji Ito) and all the rest files against German Americans.)  So if, as Malkin now says, she has written a book that defends the necessity of incarcerating tens of thousands of American citizens without charges to protect against "spot raids," while not incarcerating (or in any way directly targeting) similarly situated people who happened to be white, then the book is even more worthless than it at first appeared.  And that's saying something.
(2)  Notice that she does not respond to substance.  Yesterday, for example, I reviewed, in an archive a few miles from her house, the entire approximately 500-page Justice Department file on Kenji Ito, the Seattle Nisei attorney she smears in Appendix C to her book.  I noted that the very first document in the file is a memorandum from the Attorney General of the United States announcing that the process that led to the arrest of Kenji Ito and others after Pearl Harbor--the very process on which Malkin relies for depicting Ito as suspicious (p. 272)--was
"inherently unreliable. The evidence used for the purpose of making the [dangerousness] classifications was inadequate; the standards applied to the evidence for the purpose of making the classifications were defective; and finally, the notion that it is possible to make a valid determination as to how dangerous a person is in the abstract and without reference to time, environment, and other relevant circumstances, is impractical, unwise, and dangerous."
No comment on this from Malkin today.  Just quoted praise from Ron Radosh for doing "a lot of primary research." Malkin did not review the most important file in existence on the prosecution of Kenji Ito--a prosecution she purports to speak with authority about in her book.  ("The case against Ito faltered because prosecutors could not prove Ito had engaged in his pro-Japan activities at the behest of the government. . . . The federal prosecutors who tried the case against Ito did not have clearance for MAGIC" (pp. 271-72); "the failed prosecution of Kenji Ito for failing to register as a foreign agent probably would have been successful had the jury been able to view the MAGIC messages" (p. 140).  If she had wanted to understand the prosecutors in the Ito case, you'd think she might have travelled the few miles to College Park to examine their file.

(I'll have more to say about the Ito case down the road a piece, when I've had a chance to do complete research on it and to reflect fully on the documents I've gathered.)
Sometimes You Really Can Judge a Book by its Cover.
My first post on the subject of Michelle Malkin’s “In Defense of Internment” was a complaint about its cover.  I objected to the visual comparison of a Japanese American man with Mohammad Atta, a comparison that I didn’t think inspired confidence that Malkin’s depiction of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans would be fair and balanced.
At the time, I did not know that the Japanese American man on the cover was Richard Kotoshirodo, an American citizen who went on some scouting missions around the Hawaiian Islands in the months before Pearl Harbor on behalf of his employer, the Japanese consulate.  Of course, in this I was not alone:  nobody looking at the cover could possibly know who this man was—and that was what led me to worry that the cover would inevitably mislead people into thinking "that American citizens of Japanese ancestry presented World War II America with the same sorts of risks as al Qaeda does today."

Malkin responded that this was precisely her intent, but that it was not misleading:  Kotoshirodo was the Atta of his day, and a segment of the Japanese American community was the era's al Qaeda:

As Eric notes, hardly anybody knows who Kotoshirodo is. That's exactly the point. Hopefully, I will have changed that by putting his face on the cover, highlighting his treacherous actions, and placing them in their proper national security context. (Eric, by the way, sent me a cordial e-mail soliciting the FBI files I used in my research of the Kotoshirodo case. I pointed him in the right direction and have offered to copy and send the files to him myself if need be. Perhaps after he reads them, he will come to a different conclusion about Kotoshirodo. But I doubt it.)
Now, do I suggest that some American citizens of Japanese ancestry presented WWII America with the same sorts of risks as al Qaeda in America today? Absolutely. That's the painstaking argument at the heart of my book. Kotoshirodo was not the lone example. He was emblematic, just as Atta is.
Malkin was, in fact, gracious enough to send me copies of the files she used.  I read what she sent me.
Then I did some homework.  I went and found the files on Kotoshirodo that Malkin had never bothered to look for—even though they were at the National Archives in College Park, just a stone's throw from her home.  And those files revealed a different Richard Kotoshirodo from the monster who stares out from the cover of Malkin's book alongside Mohammad Atta.
The story of Michelle Malkin's makeover of Richard Kotoshirodo is a story worth telling, because it turns out that Malkin's use (and abuse) of Richard Kotoshirodo encapsulates everything that is irresponsible and dangerous in Malkin's book—its selective and shoddy research, its hysterical overstatement, and its malicious willingness to smear people's reputations in order to advance her agenda.
Who was Richard Kotoshirodo?

He was a mail clerk in the Japanese consulate in Honolulu in the months leading up to December 7, 1941.  Born in Hawaii, Kotoshirodo was an American citizen, but he had gotten his education in Japan.

Usually in a taxi driven by a Japanese man named Mikami, Kotoshirodo accompanied a Japanese official in the vice consul's office on a number of trips around the Hawaiian Islands, including several trips to Pearl Harbor.  A few times Kotoshirodo was instructed to go to Pearl Harbor alone, and he did so. On these trips, the Japanese consular official and Kotoshirodo wandered around public places, looking at buildings and sometimes counting ships.  They did so in the open, from public vantage points, although Kotoshirodo understood that what they were doing was gathering military information for Japan.  The man from the vice consul's office assured Kotoshirodo that what they were doing was not illegal because they were just looking at things that anyone could see, and that in any event, all countries gather information on each other in this way.  Kotoshirodo apparently believed this, and continued to go on these surveillance junkets until shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Man Malkin Wants Us to See

Malkin includes just a few details about Richard Kotoshirodo beyond the basic facts of his scouting.  She notes that in October of 1942, Kotoshirodo testified before an Internee Hearing Board that at the time he was working at the Japanese consulate and making his surveillance trips, he felt "100% Japanese."  She also reports that he testified that he was not sure that he would have quit his job at the consul even if he had known that war was coming.  In an appendix, Malkin reproduces just the three pages from the 57-page hearing transcript that substantiate these two things.

After sketching Kotoshirodo as a 100% disloyal American bent on helping Japan prepare for the Pearl Harbor attack, Malkin says this:

Despite the conclusion of a hearing board in Hawaii that Kotoshirodo was a willing collaborator …, despite the determination by FBI head J. Edgar Hoover that he should be charged with espionage, and despite Kotoshirodo's own confession of his involvement with the Honolulu spy ring, the U.S. Attorney in Hawaii blocked prosecution.  Kotoshirodo and his wife were instead interned briefly in Hawaii, then were sent to relocation centers in Topaz, Utah, and Tule Lake, California.
What a perplexing turn of events:  "The U.S. Attorney in Hawaii blocked prosecution."  Why, the reader wonders, would the Justice Department not go after such a dangerous agent—the Mohammad Atta of his day—for giving (in Malkin's words) "extensive help . . . to Japan's espionage efforts in advance of the Pearl Harbor attack?"
This is a question Malkin never really answers.  At one point she hints that the U.S. Attorney "blocked prosecution" because American espionage law did not actually criminalize information-gathering from public observation.  (Ironically, here Malkin appears to believe what Kotoshirodo's Japanese superiors told him about his activities.)
But Malkin is quite vague on this question of why Kotoshirodo was never prosecuted.  Reporting the story as she does, perplexingly dead-ending in the U.S. Attorney's Office, she is able to do two things:  she can leave Kotoshirodo in the reader's mind as a Mohammad-Atta-like monster, an emblem of the "untold numbers of . . . suspected subersive ethnic Japanese" (p. 156) whom the enemy "routinely utilized" (p. 141) before and after Pearl Harbor.  And she can plant that idea that American law then (hint, hint:  just as today!) was full of loopholes that kept the government from protecting the American people.
The Real Richard Kotoshirodo

The truth about Richard Kotoshirodo and his non-prosecution—had Malkin wished to know it—actually lay in a file at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, a few miles from her house.  It is the file of the Justice Department lawyers who who handled Kotoshirodo's case.  And it reveals that prosecutors filed no charges against Kotoshirodo not because what he did was legal—it wasn't—but because their case was weak and they thought the prosecution wasn't worth the effort.

One might have expected that a spy so loyal to the Emperor would have been reluctant to cooperate with the naval and FBI investigations into his espionage for the Japanese consulate, but it didn't turn out that way.  Kotoshirodo was instead exceedingly cooperative with investigators.  Within a short time of his arrest, Kotoshirodo told investigators everything he knew not just about his own trips around Hawaii on behalf of the Japanese consulate, but more generally about "the espionage activities carried on by the consulate."  (Here are links to the eight pages of the Office of Naval Investigation's ("ONI") report on the Kotoshirodo case in February of 1942:  page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4 page 5 page 6 page 7 page 8.)

What did this investigation reveal?  It revealed a bit  a simpleton—a man who, out of loyalty to his employer and to Japan, na&iuml;vely did what his superiors asked him to do, believing (as, ironically, does Malkin herself) that he was doing nothing illegal.  It revealed a man who guilelessly confessed to ONI after he was caught—and who did so in a way that made clear to his questioners that he was "not fully aware of the seriousness of his own situation."

Malkin makes a great deal out of Kotoshirodo's admission at his hearing that he had felt "100% Japanese" while working at the Japanese consulate.  She includes in the book's appendix the page from his hearing transcript where the admission appears.  What she omits, however, from both her narrative and from the appendix, is this excerpt from the same hearing:

Q.  How is your feeling now?  You said you were 100% Japanese when you were at the consul?  Do you feel that you are loyal to Japan, or that you are an American?
A.  Well, after the war broke out I thought it was terrible, and I thought it was a tragedy.  I could not imagine what war really was until the war broke out.  Of course, I do not have any feeling toward the Japanese government.  I do not feel that if there was an attack on Hawaii that the Japanese should do their part for Japan or anything like that.
Q.  You say you do not have that feeling?
A.  No.
Q.  Well, what is your feeling?  Who do you want to win the war?
A.  (hesitates)  Well, I think I, myself, feel that according to the publications in the newspapers and magazines—I read a lot of articles about the point where the United States and the allies stand, I can say that Japan's action was treacherous and inhuman.
Naturally, a person considering Kotoshirodo's loyalties must recognize that when he made these statements, he was under arrest and had every reason to present himself positively to his interrogators.  But of course, he had those same incentives when he described himself during the same questioning as having felt "100% Japanese" while in the employ of the consulate.  On balance, the hearing—all of it, that is, rather than just the couple of pages that Malkin chose to reproduce in her appendix—reveals a gullible man of confused loyalties.

And what of the Justice Department's decision not to prosecute Kotoshirodo, which seemed so inexplicable in Malkin's telling?
A document in the archived Justice Department files that Malkin did not bother to examine states the Department's rationale clearly:
"Lack of evidence to constitute a prima facie case especially in view of lack of Mikami's testimony through his permitted repatriation in August of 1943; [Mikami, the Japanese taxi driver who drove Kotoshirodo and his superior around the islands, was allowed to repatriate to Japan as part of a swap of nationals.  With Mikami gone, all the government had on Kotoshirodo was his own statements, which revealed him as a none-too-bright lackey rather than a scheming saboteur.]
"Necessity of exclusive reliance on subject's statements;
"Early and continued detention of subject by military authority;
"The long period which has expired since the alleged offense;
"Inadvisability of the first espionage case in federal court at Honolulu being weak."
The U.S. Attorney for the Territory of Hawaii further explained his rationale for seeking no charges against Kotoshirodo in a letter he wrote on February 28, 1944, to Assistant Attorney General Tom C. Clark—another primary source that Malkin does not cite and presumably did not find.  If Mikami, the taxi driver, had not been repatriated, the U.S Attorney said, the case against Kotoshirodo could have proceeded.  "[B]ut lacking Mikami and the evidence which might be elicited from him, we have little of weight to present in establishing a prima facie case except his own statements."  "I am of the opinion," said the U.S. Attorney, "that the first case of espionage to be instituted in this area should be one having more than an even chance to result in a conviction."  Assistant Attorney General Clark agreed.
Think about this for a moment:  This was Honolulu, 1944--Ground Zero, just two years after the sneak attack.  The chief federal prosecutor, with Kotoshirodo's own full confession in hand, thought he had less than a 50-50 chance of persuading a jury to convict Kotoshirodo of espionage.  And an Assistant Attorney General of the United States agreed.  If Mohammad Atta had somehow survived the attacks of September 11, 2001, can you imagine the government's deciding to forego prosecution?

That tells us quite a bit, I think, about the real Richard Kotoshirodo, as distinguished from the monster that Malkin invents in her book.  He acted disloyally, to be sure, and he seems to have identified more as Japanese than American, at least before the war began.  But he was a two-bit traitor and a fool—not the murderous zealot that Malkin wants us to imagine.  More importantly, his activities on behalf of the Japanese consulate allow us to draw no inference about the loyalties and conduct of Japanese Americans generally, or about the existence of "vast networks" of Nisei spies.

Why did Malkin not learn the whole truth about Richard Kotoshirodo and about the Justice Department's reasons for declining to prosecute him?  I assume she did not learn it because she did not go to the trouble of seeking out the readily accessible archival material on Kotoshirodo's case in the Justice Department files at Archives II in College Park, mere minutes from her home.  Instead she relied on research performed and supplied for her by someone else, Robert B. Stinnett, a journalist who served in the Navy in World War II and who is best known for arguing that President Roosevelt knew of the planned Pearl Harbor attack in advance.  What Stinnett sent Malkin was incomplete—but it allowed her to tell the story she wanted to tell.

So there you have it:  Mohommad Atta and Richard Kotoshirodo.

A fair comparison?  Or an hysterical exaggeration?  In my view, it's an hysterical exaggeration—indeed, a repetition of the very hysteria that led to the Japanese American internment that Malkin defends, and that could one day lead to the Arab American internment that Malkin invites.

UPDATE:  This, by Dave Neiwert, is a must-read on Malkin's revisionism.

FURTHER UPDATE (The "Non Sequitur" Edition):  Michelle Malkin responds to this post:

Muller continues his attacks today, this time getting a link from Instapundit. Now Muller is kicking up a big fuss because he says he found documents which show that the prosecution's case against Richard Kotoshirido (the Japanese-American man featured on the cover of my book) was weak. Muller apparently considers this a blockbuster revelation. However, it is exactly the same point I made in my book on page 78, where I wrote, "many of those suspected of serving Japan had not committed any crime (remember that the gathering and transmission of intelligence information from open sources before the declaration of war, such as that performed by Richard Kotoshirodo, probably was not criminal)." I made the same point on page 140, where I wrote: "Some individuals working on behalf of Japan, it should be noted, provided Japan with information that was sensitive but unclassified. Though some advocated prosecution of Hawaiian Nisei Richard Kotoshirodo, for example, it was not clear that he violated any law." As I noted in my book, this is an argument for internment, not against it, since relying on criminal prosecutions in civilian courts would have left Kotoshirodo and other Japanese agents untouchable.

I guess it is asking too much to expect my detractors to actually read my book before launching into their critiques.
And I guess it is too much to expect Malkin to read the post she's replying to--or to know the law.

I pointed out in my post above that the notion that Kotoshirodo could not be prosecuted because the information he observed was unclassified was false.  In response, Malkin scolds me for not noting that she said in her book that people could not be prosecuted for passing unclassified information to Japan.  I know she said that in her book (which, incidentally, I read--as she well knows).  It was wrong there.  And it's still wrong.

Under the Espionage Act, it was (and still is) illegal to supply any defense-related information, classified or unclassified, to a foreign nation so long as the person has the intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the detriment of the United States.

Saying something false more loudly doesn't make it true.

The case against Kotoshirodo was weak, but not because his conduct was legal.