Japanese Americans Weary of Obama’s Signing of National Defense Authorization Act

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 In the midst of New Year’s Eve celebrations, many may have missed President Barack Obama’s reauthorization of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act which allows for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. But those Japanese Americans who were victims themselves of similar laws during World War II were paying close attention.

“I know you know that this was wrong, and yet you did it anyway,” wrote community activist Soji Kashiwagi, Human Relations Commissioner for the City of Pasadena, California, in a personal letter to Obama. “And I’m here to remind you that the consequences of those actions and the long-term damage done to Japanese Americans over 70 years ago are still being felt to this day.”

Kashiwagi’s sentiments were expressed by many JAs after Obama signed his name to the controversial bill Dec. 31. The sweeping $662 billion act provides military funding for 2012 and includes a controversial provision that allows for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens and non-citizens suspected of terrorist activities without trial or charge, denying them legal rights under the U.S. constitution

Obama himself expressed misgivings about the legislation even as he signed his name to the bill. Originally saying that he would veto the bill, he later changed his position after Congress made some last-minute revisions. Obama has vowed to use his discretion in applying various measures of the bill, especially the portion dealing with indefinite detention.

“I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists,” Obama said in a Washington Post article. “I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.”

He added, he would “reject any approach that would mandate military custody where law enforcement provides the best method of incapacitating a terrorist threat.”

National JACL immediately expressed concern of the defense act noting the similarities to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Read more here.