The following editorial appears in the Dec. 21, 2012, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle and also online here. Special thanks to John Diaz at the Chronicle for writing this and to Dale Minami for connecting us with John on this issue.
In awarding a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gordon Hirabayashi in May, President Obama spoke of the courage of the University of Washington student who refused an executive order to be among the 120,000 Japanese Americans sent to internment camps during World War II. Obama expressed his admiration for Hirabayashi as a champion of civil rights.
“In Gordon’s words, ‘It takes a crisis to tell us that unless citizens are willing to stand up for the (Constitution), it’s not worth the paper it’s written on,’ ” Obama said at a White House ceremony. “And this country is better off because of citizens like him who are willing to stand up.”
The president’s words were poignant, appropriate – and in direct contradiction with his own administration’s insistence on a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes the U.S. military to indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, without due process if the government suspects them of supporting terrorism.
Neither Obama, his predecessor George W. Bush nor the U.S. Congress has shown a willingness to stand up for due process and civil liberties on this issue. Just this week, a House-Senate conference committee preserved the government’s ability to detain people indefinitely without trial in the latest version of the bill.
So who will stand up for the Constitution in this challenge to its cherished principles?
Count the children of Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu and Minoru Yasui among those who see the dangers of giving government an unchecked ability to deprive Americans of their freedom in the name of national security.