January 6, 2014

“There are a number of Americans in Europe who are aiding Hitler et al on the radio,” FDR wrote to Attorney General Francis Biddle on October 1, 1942. “Why should we not proceed to indict them for treason even though we might not be able to try them until after the war?” the president asked, specifying that “I understand Ezra Pound, [Robert] Best, [Jane] Anderson and a few others are broadcasting for Axis microphones.” End of memo.

Less than a year after Assistant Attorney General Wendell Berge’s declaration that the FDR administration “would not think in terms of suppression” of pro-Axis propaganda, the president was thus instructing Berge’s boss to do the opposite. Whereas Berge had championed the Bill of Rights in the fall of 1941, those words would soon ring hollow.

Two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 laid the groundwork for the internment of Japanese-Americans. And as the three dissenting opinions in Korematsu case (1944) made clear, the procedure of sending U.S. citizens to camps fundamentally contradicted the 5th Amendment’s due process protections.

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