RESPONDING WITH A VENGEANCE
TO TERRORIST ATTACKS IN U.S. CITIES,
AN ATTORNEY GENERAL UNLEASHES
THE FULL FURY OF THE U.S. JUSTICE
DEPARTMENT ON NEW IMMIGRANTS.
HE SETS UP A VAST NEW SPY NETWORK
TO INVESTIGATE SUSPICIOUS PEOPLE
AND ACTIVITIES, ARRESTS 6,000 IN TWO
MONTHS ON LITTLE OR NO EVIDENCE —
BUT ULTIMATELY RELEASES MOST
OF THEM . . .
It has the ring of familiarity, but it just goes to show that history, to some extent, repeats itself. This overwrought and ultimately shameful pursuit of immigrants actually took place more than 80 years ago, on the orders of an attorney general named A. Mitchell Palmer. Agents fanned out around the country in response to a spate of bombings, stoking fears not of Muslims but of Bolsheviks.
The Palmer Raids, as those infamous roundups came to be called, rained terror on immigrant communities throughout the U.S. Hundreds of Eastern Europeans were deported without due process — inviting comparison with the tactics being employed against terrorism today. Then, as now, Americans were asked to give up some freedoms for the sake of law and order — only to discover, to their horror, that such sacrifices aren’t easy to undo.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed us in many ways. Once secure in our military and economic superiority, we now realize that it cannot completely insulate us from the murderous intentions of individuals who have no regard for their own lives. Many of us travel less, leave more time for airport check-ins, and hold our children closer than before. We are less likely to balk at government invasions of our own privacy, more likely to fly an American flag.