The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from California [Mr. Edwards] is recognized for 60 minutes.
Mr. EDWARDS of California. Madam Speaker, as the Nation faces the prospect of war, I am deeply worried about the impact on freedom in this country.
It is a sad fact of history that every foreign policy crisis has generated domestic fear, which in turn has lead to an erosion of individual rights. Early in our history, a Congress fearful of French and British hostility enacted the infamous Alien and Sedition laws. After World War I, Attorney General Palmer, seeing Russian revolutionaries in domestic social and political unrest, jailed hundreds of activists. As World War II began, loyal Japanese-Americans went to prison camps. In the 1950's, the onset
of the cold war saw the birth of new sedition laws, McCarthyism and congressional witch hunts.
Today, we must ensure that history does not repeat itself. We must be alert to the threat that the gulf confrontation and fear of terrorism will result in an overreaction here at home, making us less free.
We want the FBI to be vigilant, and we support the FBI's antiterrorism efforts. But we must avoid infringements on our civil liberties. I would note the advice of William Webster, now the CIA Director. When he was FBI Director, Judge Webster warned against the danger of overreaction to the threat of terrorism. He stated in 1985, `A government that reacts to terrorism by repressive measures and suspends individual liberties plays into the hands of terrorists.' On another occasion, Judge Webster noted, `To barricade ourselves is to let the terrorists win on the cheap.'
The remarks of Judge Webster are important today. As a result of FBI programs initiated under his calm and measured leadership, terrorism has been largely kept from American soil. The number of terrorist incidents in the United States has declined dramatically, from over 100 a year in 1977 to less than 10 a year since 1987. In 1989, we had only four terrorist incidents on American soil. Even more remarkably, there has not been a single terrorist incident in the United States by a foreign group since 1983.
The FBI achieved these remarkable results by applying ordinary law enforcement methods in a calm and measured way. That is what we want them to continue doing. We want them to continue focusing their efforts on criminal conduct and suspected crimes.
However, last week, there was an ominous sign when the FBI began to contact ordinary Arab-Americans--citizens--and ask them what they knew about terrorism. I have received calls of concern from Arab-Americans in my district and from national organizations of Arab-Americans. They are upset and confused by the Bureau's actions.
The FBI should not have a special program aimed at Arab-Americans. Interviewing people on the basis of ethnic origin has an aura of discrimination that is not appropriate in our country. Arab-Americans are no more prone to violence than other Americans and no more likely to have information about terrorism. It is inappropriate to single out individuals for questioning on the basis of ethnic or national origin.
I am very concerned about what steps may be taken next. In World War II, our Nation went down the wrong road when we put in prison camps thousands of Japanese-Americans. We now know that it was wrong to do so. We now know that there was no justification for such an action. But that is how far fear can lead us.
A little later, I hope we will hear from the gentleman from California [Mr. Mineta] who had personal experience how prejudice coupled with the emotion of a war can victimize an entire ethnic community. We want no repeat of the Japanese-American experience. In times of international hostilities such as we face now, leaders in all branches of Government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial, must protect all citizens from petty fears and prejudices that are so easily stirred up.
Whether or not there are terrorist acts in the United States, we must remain true to our basic freedoms and preserve our civil liberties. If we do not, we allow the terrorists to win.
The Justice Department must be very careful in any efforts to deport Iraqi nationals. It must be careful to avoid cases of mistaken identity and it must be careful not to detain American citizens or permanent resident aliens.
The political views of Arab-Americans should not be the concern of the FBI. The FBI should restrict its efforts to the investigation of criminal acts.
If the FBI has a reasonable suspicion that someone is engaged in crminal acts or is planning criminal acts, then the FBI should investigate. If the FBI has reason to believe that a particular individual may have information about a particular act or planned act of terrorism, then the FBI should question that person.
But civil liberties will suffer if the FBI casts a wide net and interviews people on the basis of their ethnic or religious or national origin or on the basis of their political views or their political activism.
Remember this, if there is one lesson that we have learned the hard way in this country, it is that political dissent is not evidence of an intention to use violence.
Madam Speaker, the Washington Post in this morning's edition had an excellent editorial on this subject, and I submit that for the Record at this time.
The article referred to is as follows:
The Gulf crisis has raised the threat of terrorism--instigated by Saddam Hussein and directed against American targets both abroad and in this country. Hence, the increased security at federal buildings and airports, and the decision of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to photograph and fingerprint visitors holding Iraqi and Kuwaiti passports. These have been telling signs of a nation assuming a wartime footing. Given the pronouncements out of Baghdad, these countermeasures are inconvenient but necessary security precautions against possible terrorist attacks.
Yet it is exactly at times such as these that the government must take care not to circumscribe the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Regrettably, that may have happened last week during the course of a special Federal Bureau of Investigation program focused on Arab Americans.
FBI agents contacted more than 200 Arab-American business and community leaders across the country, ostensibly to inform them of the bureau's intention to protect them against any backlash from the Persian Gulf crisis. Investigating and prosecuting hate crimes and ethnically motivated violence spawned by Middle East turbulence is a legitimate job of federal law enforcement officials, so that aspect of the bureau's initiative was welcomed to Arab Americans. But FBI agents also used the occasion to gather intelligence about possible terrorist threats. This is where the FBI quickly wore out its welcome.
Organizations representing Arab Americans contend that agents asked citizens about their political beliefs, there attitudes toward the Persian Gulf crisis, Saddam Hussein and their knowledge or suspicions about possible terrorisim. Deputy Attorney General William P. Barr denies any FBI intention to intimidate Arab Americans, as some community leaders fear. `At the same time,' he says, `in the light of the terrorist threats . . . it is only prudent to solicit information about potential terrorist activity and to request the future assistance of these individuals.'
But why does the government presume that Americans of Arab descent should know about `potential terrorist activity' or that this group of Americans is any more knowledgeable about such activity than any other? FBI spokesman Thomas F. Jones says it's because the bureau is aware of a number of terrorist organizations in the United States that `consist of people of Middle East descent' and that the `possibility exists that (terrorists) are living in Arab-American communities.' In that way, he said, Arab Americans `could come into possession of information on potential terrorist acts.'
It is a perilously flimsy rationale. It leaves the U.S. Government wide open to the accusation that it is dividing Americans by ethnic background and singling out one group as a suspect class. If that were true, the government's conduct would clearly be constitutionally offensive and morally repugnant. To imply that Arab Americans--some of whom are members of families that have been in this country since the turn of the century--may have a special link to terrorists is both insidious and harmful. The government cannot go around making judgments and presumptions about citizens on the basis of their descent.
Like all Americans, Arab Americans have the right to be accepted and treated as individuals, and the government has a constitutional duty to observe and protect that right. Neither should the government invade the privacy or trample the dignity of one class of citizens. What is being seen now recalls the negative stereotyping that served as a basis for the shameful treatment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Such stereotyping, with all its ugly and unfair implications, should not be allowed to take hold.
Madam Speaker, it is now my pleasure and honor to yield to our colleague, a very distinguished Member who, as a young boy, had a very unpleasant and terrible experience where national hysteria took over the country, the gentleman from California [Mr. Mineta].
Mr. MINETA. Madam Speaker, Members of Congress care deeply about the American people in this time of crisis for our Nation. We meet here today in a race against time and the tide of events now unfolding in the Middle East.
On Saturday, the House went on record in an important matter related to the conflict between the United States and Iraq.
In this, the House voted overwhelmingly to reassert a key principle of our Constitution: That the President clearly has the obligation to seek the approval of Congress before starting a war.
It is now time to reassert another principle: That armed conflict in the Persian Gulf--if it comes--will not be a license to selectively strip away the civil liberties guaranteed every American by this same Constitution.
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank our good friend and colleague from San Jose--Congressman Don Edwards--for requesting this time today to sound a very real warning.
I am joining him in this because I know first-hand just how strong that warning needs to be.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor without warning. I was 10 years old at the time and living in the town in which I was born and raised: San Jose, CA.
When the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor, they attacked every American--including Americans of Japanese ancestry.
But Americans of Japanese ancestry soon found their civil liberties under attack not from the Empire of Japan, but by the United States Government.
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066--the first step toward excluding all Americans of Japanese ancestry from the west coast.
No charges were ever filed against us.
Our only crime was that by accident of birth we were of Japanese ancestry.
Madam Speaker, I spent 18 months--including my 11th birthday--in internment camps in California and Wyoming.
In all, more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry had their most basic human rights stripped from them, their personal justice denied for no reason other than their ancestry.
Many of those Americans lived behind barbed wire in harsh conditions while their sons and fathers and brothers were fighting the Axis powers. They served this country as military intelligence specialists in the Pacific Theater, and in Europe as part of the 442d Regimental Combat Team--the most decorated military unit in American history.
Our resolve at the end of the Second World War was that the American tragedy we had endured in the internment camps must never happen to anyone ever again.
Such was the apology and promise Congress and President Reagan made to the American people when we enacted The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which redressed the internment.
But Madam Speaker, today I see the spectre of a challenge to that promise.
Madam Speaker, today many innocent Arab-Americans are worried that their civil rights may be caught up in the maelstrom of war hysteria should a military conflict erupt in the Middle East.
And Madam Speaker, theirs is a legitimate concern.
As early as 1979, when the revolution in Iran toppled the Shah, there was talk in our Nation's Capital about another roundup.
I recall that within a few days of the fall of the American Embassy in Teheren, the Departments of State and Defense and the intelligence agencies briefed Members of Congress about the situation in Iran.
And yes, sadly, I recall that there were then suggestions made that a `roundup' of all Iranian Americans and other fundamentalist Moslems in the United States might be a good idea.
Madam Speaker, at that moment in 1979, I suddenly realized how the seeds had been sown for my internment back in 1942.
Hysteria, racism, and weak political leadership had fed upon themselves.
The result was that the protections of our Constitution were simply set aside for a select and temporarily unpopular group of Americans.
This scenario reared its ugly head again in the 1980's. Arab-Americans were under attack.
Had the Immigration and Naturalization Service had its way, INS would have used its 100-acre prison complex in Oakdale, LA, as a detention center for so-called undesirables.
The `Option Paper,' as INS itself described it, was designed to do one thing and one thing only--and in their words--`to locate, apprehend and remove a body of aliens from the U.S.'
Why? Because of their ethnicity. Because members of certain ethnic groups held views on issues that were `dangerous.'
Madam Speaker, the Constitution of the United States has only one master: The rule of law provided by the consent of the American people.
No one--not the President, not Congress, and certainly not a single Gvernment agency--has the authority to suspend anyone's civil rights without the due process of that law.
Now, Madam Speaker, we have yet another event that is part of the same pattern of policies that put expedience ahead of constitutional safeguards.
It is a pattern where mistaken assumptions about national security have been made and may be implemented without properly protecting the civil rights of individuals.
I refer specifically to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's recent pattern of interviews targeting Americans of Arab ancestry.
I, along with Congressman Edwards, have been briefed on this program by the FBI. We requested the briefing after some Arab-Americans in California had experienced a sort of random interrogation that raised the spectre of another tragic violation of civil rights.
Madam Speaker, the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War was the culmination of a pattern of racism and hysteria. The same pattern may be at work today against Arab-Americans.
Threats of internment in the 1970's, a plan for camps in the 1980's, and now intimidation.
Madam Speaker, there was another time in our history when questions of this sort led to a tragedy of civil liberties.
In the 1950's, the FBI went to loyal Americans and asked questions about who they knew who might be `disloyal.' Proving one's loyalty meant giving the names of people who might be suspected of disloyalty.
This was the time of the blacklist. This was the time of McCarthyism.
Now, loyal Arab-Americans are being asked about their views. They are being asked for names.
Rightfully, the duty and charge to the FBI is to fight terrorism.
Americans have a right to travel freely in the United States without the fear of attack.
Americans have a right to assemble in public without fear of being maimed or killed by insane madmen who would sacrifice themselves as human bombs.
Americans have a right to expect that their government will protect them from harm, and the FBI has an excellent record of doing just that--most often without the general public aware of the Bureau's day-to-day successes.
But despite the Bureau's capability and good intentions, the spectre of parallels to McCarthyism is too obvious to be ignored.
The United States is a diverse nation composed of a great tapestry of peoples and cultures. It is this tapestry that gives our Nation its strength and resolve to fulfill our ideals of freedom and democracy.
Every American should be alarmed at any threat to civil rights because tomorrow another ethnic group could be the target of suspicion. And another. And another. And another.
Madam Speaker, as much as we all pray against the possibility of a war, a war in the Middle East may soon be fought. Many say that the fight will be about the great principles of freedom, democracy, and human rights.
If this is the case, then I know of no more sacred duty the Members of this chamber have than to protect these very rights here in the United States.
Madman Speaker, if a war does begin in the Middle East, there will be legitimate fears of terrorism here in the United States.
There is today an urgent need for the Justice Department and the FBI to ferret out any and all enemy agents--citizen and noncitizen--who would maim and kill Americans.
But should terrorism hit at home as a result of a war in the Middle East, I fear that there will be calls for wholesale arrests that go beyond probable cause.
I fear there will be calls for internment.
Madam Speaker, when and if that happens, the civil rights of Americans and the rule of law must not be sequestered.
The great Constitution of the United States of America must not be allowed to become a casualty of our conflict with Saddam Hussein.
Mr. EDWARDS of California. Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Kentucky [Mr. Mazzoli].
Mr. MAZZOLI. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California [Mr. Edwards], my dear friend and colleague on the Committee on the Judiciary, for yielding to me, and I thank him for taking this special order to call clear attention to the potential overreaction of our law enforcement agencies as a result of the difficulties which are now being experienced in the Gulf of Persia.
I would like, if I could, certainly to salute the gentleman from California [Mr. Mineta], my friend, as well, whose personal recital was both quite eloquent, as well as quite informative.
Mr. EDWARDS of California. Reclaiming my time just for a second to reemphasize what the gentleman from Kentucky [Mr. Mazzoli] said, the gentleman from California [Mr. Mineta] made a major contribution and a splendid speech. He was the original author and secured the enactment of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which is very much to his credit, and I think the advice that he gave us and the advice that the gentleman from Kentucky [Mr. Mazzoli] is giving us is terribly important, and the message should go out now, which did not happen before these other crises.
Madam Speaker, I yield again to the gentleman from Kentucky [Mr. Mazzoli].
Mr. MAZZOLI. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California [Mr. Edwards], and I was going to say that I have had the opportunity of becoming very close personally and professionally to the gentleman from San Jose, CA [Mr. Mineta], both because our offices are in the same wing of the Rayburn Building and we have had the opportunity of walking back and forth many years to the Capitol, and, because our sons are about the same age, we have had a lot of reason to share thoughts and ideas.
It is beautiful that this man, who could have borne a grudge or resentment against this Nation of ours, or against law enforcement people, or against President Roosevelt, did not bear that grudge, but instead, by his loyal service to the Nation in uniform, and by his service as mayor of San Jose and by his distinguished service here in this body for many years has elevated, in the eyes of many people in this county, the talent, and the worthwhileness, and the spirit, and the zeal, and the imagination of Americans of Japanese heritage and Japanese ancestry.
He also has, despite having the difficulties of spending his 11th birthday in internment camp and despite being a little boy in his Boy Scout uniform not really understanding what was going on, come from that to give such great example is itself an example to me and to all of his colleagues, I would say, an certainly because of his personal experience, his admonition, his wise statement, his advice to us today and, by extension, to all this Chamber and this country of the need to be wary, and careful, and circumspect and restrained at this very moment even when war could break out I think is the most apt and appropriate advice anyone can give us. So I join with the gentleman from California [Mr. Edwards] in support of those statements on this issue and also with respect to the fact that in my hometown there are many people of Arab origin. Many, many people whose origins are from the Middle East; from Lebanon, from Syria, from Iraq, from Saudi Arabia, from Iran, who are the most wonderful people one can imagine, loyal, hard-working, disciplined, productive just simply because they happen to have the accidcent of being born of Arab descent, in the same way it was my accident to be born an Italian, would cause them to be interrogated, or questioned, or interned, pray God not, would certainly be not a happy chapter in our national history.
So, I think perhaps with this warning and with the fact the FBI is run by a very diligent judge who is very careful, and by special agents such as ours in Louisville who is a very careful, thoughtful individual, perhaps all of this combined would make sure that there are no excesses and that Americans are protected against the very people, the terrorists, the gentleman from California [Mr. Mineta] has identified, and yet the innocent people among us whose origins are not from places in the world that are now at peace would not suffer the ignominy and would not have the unhappy situation of having to be brought before law enforcement authorities.
So, I thank the gentleman from California [Mr. Mineta], my friend, and look forward to working with him on this issue.
Mr. EDWARDS of California. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Kentucky [Mr. Mazzoli] for his valuable contribution, and, Madam Speaker, the message is out now, and I hope that all of our colleagues pay attention to it and spread the word throughout the country that this time, if there is a war or another kind of a crisis, that we are not going to tolerate the same kind of behavior by government agencies, police agencies, that there was too much of in previous war and previous crises.