Letter: ‘Careful scrutiny by an independent judiciary is a must’

The New York Times today published the following letter to the editor by Prof. Eric Yamamoto, author of the new book “In the Shadow of Korematsu: Democratic Liberties and National Security“.

To the Editor:

Re “Wartime Internment of Japanese Looms Over Travel Ban Case” (news article, April 17):

On behalf of the legal team that filed the 1980s challenge to the 1944 Korematsu Supreme Court decision upholding the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II, we appreciate your insightful article.

The original decision was infected by egregious government misconduct in altering, destroying and suppressing evidence showing that the government’s claims of military necessity were based on “willful historical inaccuracies and intentional falsehoods.”

In reopening the wartime cases, the lower federal courts in the 1980s found “manifest injustice,” belatedly clearing 120,000 interned Japanese-Americans. Those decisions also demonstrated the peril to American democracy when courts blindly defer to the executive branch’s unsubstantiated claim that national security justifies curtailment of fundamental liberties.

The government thus far has refused to disclose the evidence supporting President Trump’s national security rationale for carrying out the travel ban under executive branch deliberation privilege. Are we repeating history?

The lesson is simple: Careful scrutiny by an independent judiciary is a must.


The writer is a law professor at the University of Hawaii.