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John Ashcroft seems to have drawn from this earlier administration’s defeat, however, was to avoid going through Congress; when he ordered the fingerprinting and photographing of visitors from certain countries earlier this year, it was on his own initiative. He didn’t consult with or even advise Congress in advance).

Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, military commander of the Pacific Coast area, set up a military zone running from the Canadian to the Mexican borders, covering portions of eight states, from which 120,000 Japanese American citizens as well as aliens would be evacuated to internment camps.

The Palmer Raids, the Red hunts and the Ashcroft power grab notwithstanding, there has not been a more harrowing abuse of power since the end of slavery than the government’s response

To justify such harsh measures, General DeWitt cited the threat of Japanese-American espionage and the danger of an attack on the West Coast. However, according to the Justice Department’s own files — opened four decades

Not only did the Palmer Raids fail to identify bombers or make America more secure; they sowed such deep suspicion of enemies in our midst that fanatics in Congress were still pursuing and blacklisting alleged Reds 30 years later.

Ashcroft do now. Loyalty oaths, Velde said in a 1952 radio broad- cast, were needed to combat a “new and evil force more treacherous than has ever been known in the history of the world — the force of the communist dictatorship.”

In 1939, the 76th Congress consid- ered a variety of bills that would have required the registration and fingerprinting of aliens annually, or even every six months, with penalties of up to $10,000 and five years in prison for failure to comply. But the ACLU responded with a broadsheet refuting the

to the Dec. 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Three days after Pearl Harbor, Attorney General Francis Biddle told the country, “It is essential at such a time as this that we keep our heads, keep our tempers — above all, that we keep clearly in mind what we are defending” and guard freedom “most zealously at home.” But as

Samuel Walker’s 1990 history of the ACLU, recounts, the government then imposed a curfew on Japanese, German and Italian aliens; arrested several hundred Japanese nationals in a matter of days; and went on to perpetrate one of the worst civil liberties violations in American history.

radical parties and provoking the very acts they are hired presumably to prevent.”

Red-baiters such as Harold H. Velde, a Republican congressman from Illinois who sat on the House Un-American Activities Committee, used hyperbole as boldly 50 years ago as Bush and

sponsors’ reasons, one by one. “Registration would enable all aliens in the country to be hounded by government agents, while our comparatively few alien ‘enemies’ would easily be able to evade such a mass registration system,” the ACLU argued. There was no need “to ape the totalitarian” restraints of other countries. (The only lesson

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