Repeating history?

Civil right heroes, from left, Gordon Hirabayashi, Min Yasui and Fred Koematsu (Rafu Simpo).

Civil right heroes, from left, Gordon Hirabayashi, Min Yasui and Fred Koematsu (Rafu Simpo).

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – Three Japanese-American families who were throw into concentration camps during World War II are helping challenge a federal law that provides for indefinite detention of anyone, including U.S. citizens.

The families of Fred Koremtsu, Minoru Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi filed an amicus brief Monday on Hedges v. Obama, a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA).

The “friend of the court” brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The 2012 NDAA authorizes the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, without a warrant or due process if the military suspects them of supporting terrorism.

Attorneys of the three families said “this is exactly what the U.S government did in 1942 to 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, and who spent years in prisons without notice of charges, the right to an attorney, or the right to a trial.”

Korematsu, Yasui and Hirabayashi refused to be incarcerated in wartime camps and questioned the government action, but in cases that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, their convictions were upheld.

In the 1980s, however, their convictions were overturned after it was found that the government altered, suppressed, or destroyed evidence that Japanese-Americans were not a danger to nati0nal security.

The Korematsu, Yasui, and Hirabayashi families are returning to fight the attacks on civil rights by filing an amicus brief in support of the legal challenge against NDAA, their lawyers said.

The amicus brief (download) describes a parallel to the incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II, using the pretense of national security to trample civil rights.

“These potential infringements on the constitutional rights of citizens and residents doom us to repeat history and subverts what should have been lessons learned from the wartime imprisonment,” the families said in a statement.

In the 2013 NDAA, now under consideration, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), had added an amendment declaring that “an authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

According to the Huffington Post, the provision sparked a heated debate in the Senate, but ultimately passed by a wide majority with both supporters and opponents of U.S. terrorist detention practices voting for it, citing differing interpretations.

Feinstein offered the amendment to clarify a part of the 2012 NDAA that for the first time codified the ability of the military and White House to detain terrorism suspects.

It was not immediately clear whether the amendment will find its way into the final bill and signed by President Obama.


Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at



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