Homeland Insecurity

Aliens, Citizens and Wartime Challenges to American Civil Liberties

'A gem of a book, from engaging anecdote to personal narrative to sweeping history, and best of all, the connections between yesterday and today.' - John Christgau, author of '"Enemies': World War II Alien Internment"

'Ahead of the times or timely? So much of what's being said now is just what you wrote about. I think your book is one of the most important I have read.' - Dave T.

'A must read for all Americans concerned about their freedom.' - Ron Standerfer for Reader Views

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'Security subsists, too, in fidelity to

freedom's first principles.' - Justice Anthony Kennedy

 

"Set in World War II, but with an eye to the present and future, HOMELAND INSECURITY offers a unique, thematic commentary on the experiences of men and women of Italian and German ancestry who were relocated, interned or excluded. Award-winning author Stephen Fox mines government documents—especially those of the FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service—to assess the impact on detainees and their families of profiling, FBI bungling, military commissions, secret arrests, suspension of due process and habeas corpus, deportation, extraordinary rendition, secondary citizenship and other forms of harassment.

 

HOMELAND INSECURITY highlights the selective embrace of historical lessons. During the war, policymakers, the media and the public chose only those messages (lessons) that supported their assumptions. When this lack of judgment coincided with the prejudices and insecurities of J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the result was tragic, an assault on the Bill of Rights, the ruin of countless reputations and family well-being and lost lives.

 

Told through intimate stories of men and women of European ancestry, HOMELAND INSECURITY questions whether this assault on Constitutional and civil liberties can and will be repeated." - Ron Standerfer for Reader Views

The philosopher-poet George Santayana cautioned that forgotten lessons from the past condemn the inattentive to repetition. Jon Carroll, a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle, takes Santayana a step further: the doomed includes those who are attentive to the lessons of history. The problem may not be attention or inattention; rather, the lessons themselves. Perhaps there is no better illustration of this conundrum than the internal security policies put in place by the Franklin Roosevelt administration during the Second World War.

Conventional wisdom holds that Americans must not forget the lessons of the 1930s and 1940s: never appease an aggressor (Munich); be prepared (‘Remember Pearl Harbor!’); and beware of aliens (the ‘fifth column’). But are those the only lessons the war served up?

Nations, because they are human, are selective to the point of blindness when it comes to historical lessons. Those in charge of homeland security during the Second World War met the challenges presented after Pearl Harbor with just two lessons from the past: fear and intolerance. These pages tell the story of how such a reliance, combined with the personal prejudices and insecurities of powerful men, led to a national obsession at the expense of the Constitution, countless reputations, family well-being and lives.

But there is another lesson that should command our attention. Despite the historic reliance on fear and intolerance, messages that center on regret (‘What were we thinking?’) do appear—invariably too late—with a naïve expectation of garnering respect. Sadly, regret seldom if ever commands respect when it might make a difference in policy.

 

Shouldn’t remorse be at least as influential a guide to the protection of civil liberties as the customary infringements backed by recent and distant presidents? Why are the pangs of guilt so much less influential than panic? Alas, as Carroll suggests, we will probably have to rely on philosophers and biologists for answers.

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HOMELAND INSECURITY is the book I always intended to write when I began my study of relocation and internment during World War II. This volume emphasizes the influence of historical precedent on domestic security practices and the contest between security and the Constitution (as suggested by Justice Kennedy) that is the heart of the story. I observe the impact on detainees and their families of profiling, FBI bungling, military commissions, secret arrests, suspension of due process and habeas corpus, deportation, extraordinary rendition, and second-class citizenship.

HISTORY OFFERS MANY LESSONS, BUT WHICH ARE THE MOST RELEVANT? Many writers and commentators have stated the obvious: history repeats itself, or nearly so. But how, specifically? Which history? Policymakers, the media, and the public often embrace (cherry pick) simplistic or muddled historical lessons, then manipulate them to affirm their assumptions.

 

WHY DID AMERICANS ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN? As the government rolled out its domestic security apparatus after 9/11, I began thinking about historical lessons. I was struck by how much these new security manifestations echoed the past, specifically World War II.

CAN IT HAPPEN AGAIN? The answer to that question may be the ultimate lesson of this tragic episode.