On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which began the process of interning Japanese-Americans due to the alleged threat they posed while the United States was at war with Japan. During the next four years, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans, most of them U.S. citizens, would be removed from their homes, primarily along the Pacific coast, and relocated to inland camps.
James M. Lindsay, CFR’s senior vice president and director of studies, says the decision to intern many Japanese-Americans during the war demonstrates the difficulty of striking a balance between civil liberties and national security. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he argues, the United States was again faced with difficult decisions over limits to civil liberties. Americans learned from the mistakes of World War II, he says, and the experiences of Japanese-American internees should serve as a reminder of the danger of allowing national security to trump civil liberty.
This video is part of Lessons Learned, a series exploring historical events and examining their meaning in the context of foreign relations today.