Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (shown) made headlines nationwide this week after bluntly telling law students at the University of Hawaii that internment camps to detain Americans would eventually return. Acknowledging that the infamous Supreme Court-approved internment of Japanese-Americans in wretched camps during World War II was wrong, the conservative-leaning justice followed up by adding that “you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.” In “times of war,” Scalia said, citing a Latin expression attributed to Cicero, “the laws fall silent.”
According to the Associated Press, which first reported the explosive February 3 statements, Scalia was responding to a question about one of the Supreme Court’s most widely criticized decisions. Amid national hysteria following the Japanese regime’s attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an “executive order” in 1942 purporting to justify the mass detention of people of Japanese ancestry — the vast majority of whom were U.S. citizens. In 1944, the high court upheld the convictions of two men for failing to report to an internment camp in Korematsu v. United States.
“Well of course Korematsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case,” Scalia was quoted as telling students and faculty during a lunchtime question and answer session. “But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.” Pointing to the Latin expression about laws falling silent during war-time, the longest-serving justice said, “That's what was going on — the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot.”
“That's what happens,” Scalia continued. “It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It's no justification, but it is the reality.” In other words, one of the nation’s top judicial officials believes that during a “time of war,” Americans run the risk of being unconstitutionally rounded up by the federal government and detained in camps like over 110,000 almost certainly innocent Japanese-descent individuals during World War II.
Keep in mind that the U.S. government is currently engaged in multiple unconstitutional wars, including many that could potentially go on indefinitely — especially the “terror” war, which now spans across the “Homeland” and the entire planet. Incredibly, buried inside the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress and the president have even approved a statute pretending to legalize the indefinite detention of Americans without charges, trial, due process, or any other constitutionally guaranteed rights.
The Obama administration even claims to have the power to secretly murder Americans with no trial — and, in fact, it has done so in at least several cases that are now known publicly. A Justice Department memo leaked in 2013 outlined the outlandish legal rationale purporting to authorize Obama serving as judge, jury, and executioner. When asked by the Huffington Post whether the administration should tell the public when it secretly murders an American, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said “it depends.”
The dean of the law school, Avi Soifer, tried to downplay Scalia’s explosive remarks, telling the AP he thought the Supreme Court justice was merely suggesting that people should always be vigilant and that the law alone cannot be relied on to provide protection. “We do need a court that sometimes will say there are individual or group rights that are not being adequately protected by the democratic process,” Soifer was quoted as saying, though it was not clear what “group rights” was supposed to refer to. The dean also noted that Scalia was among those who reined in the power of “military commissions.”
However, despite efforts to downplay the clear statements made by Scalia, countless Americans believe there is good cause to be concerned — and not just because history conclusively proves that the U.S. government is capable of lawlessly interning citizens. In 2012, for example, a leaked military document dubbed “Army Field Manual 3-39.40: Internment and Resettlement Operations” provides guidance on interning Americans on U.S. soil. It even teaches how to identify “malcontents, trained agitators, and political leaders” and how “to reduce or remove antagonistic attitudes.”
Of course, there have been countless reports about internment facilities all across the United States set up under the aegis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency — so-called “FEMA camps.” In 2006, a Halliburton subsidiary was even handed a $385-million contract to build a vast network of “detention centers” for the Department of Homeland Security. Officials downplayed the news, saying the camps were simply meant to prepare for a potential massive influx of immigrants.
Stories and fears about “FEMA camps” are often dismissed by the establishment and even some credible researchers who have investigated. The centers, however, along with countless videos claiming to show camps across the United States, have fueled strong suspicion all across the political spectrum. Meanwhile, even a cursory review of the so-called “executive orders” issued over the last century shows that the executive branch believes it can seize virtually total control of the nation in the event of an “emergency” declared by the president.
Even in recent years, Americans have been herded by federal officials into camps against their will. After hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, for example, authorities declared martial law, forcibly disarmed residents, and forced massive numbers of people into FEMA-run camps. During the recent swine flu hysteria, officials were also openly discussing and preparing for the forcible quarantine of Americans. More recently still, homeless people in some areas have also been coerced into camps under penalty of arrest.
Obviously it makes sense for government to prepare for contingencies. As with all official programs, however, innocent-seeming schemes can be abused, and often are. With the U.S. government becoming infamous for brazenly lying to the public — WMDs in Iraq, for example, or you can keep your health insurance — it is hardly surprising that public suspicion of Washington, D.C., and its intentions continues to grow.
More than a few recent training exercises have added fuel to the fire. Among the most alarming: Black military helicopters filled with terror warriors swarming around U.S. cities firing fake ammo, Chinese and Russian troops training on U.S. soil with American forces in recent years, Homeland Security “relocation” drills in Colorado, FEMA signing an “exchange” deal with Vladimir Putin’s government, and more. The Obama administration’s wild stockpiling and distribution to local law enforcement of “weapons of war” for domestic use has also raised serious concerns.
Analyst Justin King, writing in the Digital Journal, said Scalia’s remarks should “terrify” Americans. “First, the longest-serving Justice on the Supreme Court has openly stated that the court does not adhere to the Constitution of the United States, but rather allows laws to wither in times of war,” he wrote. “The highest court in the land will gladly send you to a prison camp out of fear, knowing that it is wrong.” He also pointed out that with the vague “terror” war still raging, virtually anybody could be caught in a government dragnet merely by virtue of their beliefs.
In fact, the U.S. government has already made clear in numerous official documents that its terror war is increasingly focused on its own domestic political foes. From the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department to the Pentagon, numerous tentacles of the lawless executive branch have openly identified everyday Americans as potential terrorists and extremists. Among others: pro-life activists, Christians, gun-rights supporters, states’ rights advocates, veterans, conservatives, libertarians, Ron Paul supporters, liberty lovers, and more.
Recent surveys show that more than two thirds of Americans believe the federal government is “out of control” and a “threat” to their basic liberties. It is not hard to see why. Is it time to panic? Probably not. Still, with Washington, D.C., becoming increasingly lawless with each passing year, Americans would be wise to pay very close attention to Scalia’s remarks.
Photo of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: AP Images
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at