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In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror

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Cover for In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror.
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In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror (ISBN 0895260514) is a 2004 book by conservative author Michelle Malkin.[1] As it says in the title, the point of the book is to defend the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II, and to advocate that the United States engage in something similar in order to fight the War on Terror.

Michelle vs. The Founders[edit]

The book opens with this paragraph:

I start from a politically incorrect premise: In a time of war, the survival of the nation comes first. Civil liberties are not sacrosanct. The "unalienable rights" that our Founding Fathers articulated in the Declaration of Independent did not appear in random order: Liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot be secured and protected without securing and protecting life first.[1]:xiv

Of course, one could find several quotes from the founding fathers that disagree with Malkin's rather odd interpretation. The most famous example being Benjamin Franklin's famous line "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."[2] However, one only needs to understand what the word "unalienable" actually means ("impossible to take away or give up"[3]) in order to understand why Malkin's point about word order is grasping at straws, to put it nicely.

For the record, the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" actually comes from John Locke, specifically a phrase he coined put along side his notion that a government must protect its citizens right to "life, liberty, and property."[4]

Malkin's disdain for civil liberties is present all throughout the book. She defends one person who was "merely observing that adopting lesser measures that the entire grievance industry vehemently protest as civil rights atrocities… can prevent acts of terrorism, which in turn can prevent larger infringements on civil liberties down the road."[1]:xix However, even giving her the benefit of the doubt that a civil liberties-minded government would one day perform a 180° turn the second they have an excuse to, that would still in no way justify the original infringements.

Were there Japanese terrorists?[edit]

One of Malkin's big pieces of evidence is the MAGIC cables,[5] which she claims provide evidence of "an aggressive effort to recruit West Coast spies, including both Japanese aliens (Issei) and U.S.-born citizens of Japanese descent."[1]:21 Malkin writes that it had "vital importance in shaping FDR's national security policies abroad and at home."[1]:37

However, in his review for Reason Magazine,[6] Eric L. Muller points out two major issues with this claim. The first one being:

Many of the men who proposed and implemented the internment did not have access to the ultra-secret MAGIC cables. Lt. Gen. John DeWitt,[note 1] the chief architect of the eviction of Japanese Americans, did not see them. Neither did the governors of the Mountain West states, who in April 1942 rejected the federal government’s request to allow Japanese Americans freedom of movement and instead insisted that any Japanese Americans in their states be kept behind barbed wire and under military guard. Plainly, the MAGIC intelligence could not have influenced them.[6]

And the second issue being:

Nothing in the historical record shows that Roosevelt, Stimson, or McCloy attached any particular significance to any specific MAGIC decrypt, let alone to the vanishingly tiny fraction that mentioned a desire to enlist Nisei[note 2] spies.[6]

Regarding claims of recruitment, Malkin is greatly misrepresenting what these messages actually said. Historian Greg Robinson points out that one message cited "does not say that such recruitment took place, and furthermore that recruitment was to take place even more among non-Japanese. "He also notes that many of the cables could not have been used as justification for internment because they "recount information given to Japan in fall 1941, long after any discussion of recruiting Japanese Americans had ceased." (This isn't the only issue with time Robinson finds, as he notes one event that Malkin used to justify internment happened "four days after Executive Order 9066 was signed, so it could not have played a factor in any of the decisions.) [8]

Malkin and David Lowman[edit]

In Defense of Internment is dedicated to a man named David Lowman, whom Malkin has also credited as being the person who got her interested in this topic in the first place, writing in 2004:

After reading a book by former National Security Agency official David Lowman called MAGIC: The untold story of U.S. Intelligence and the evacuation of Japanese residents from the West Coast during WWII,[9] published posthumously by Athena Press Inc., I contacted publisher Lee Allen, who generously agreed to share many new sources and resources as I sought the truth.[8]

However, given Malkin's decision to hold Lowman in high regard, it's important to note that he, to put it simply, was not a very good source and the book doesn't say what Malkin thinks it does. Publisher Weekly noted, although Lowman does say MAGIC played a large role in the decision to intern the Japanese, his book has nothing "directly rebutting charges that sheer racist hysteria contributed as well."[10] This is a far cry from Malkin who says, definitely, that the "internment measures were based not on anti-Japanese racism."[1]:54


  1. Of "a jap is a jap" fame.[7]
  2. Nisei refers to second-generation Japanese-Americans.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror by Michelle Malkin (2004) Regnery Publishing. ISBN:0895260514.
  2. Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, 11 November 1755
  3. unalienable
  4. John Locke
  5. Magic cables Densho Encyclopedia.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Indefensible Internment
  7. John DeWitt
  8. 8.0 8.1 A Critique of Michelle Malkin's "In Defense of Internment", Part Two
  9. Magic: The Untold Story of U.S. Intelligence and the Evacuation of Japanese Residents from the West Coast during World War II by David Lowman (2001) Athena Press. ISBN 9780960273614.
  10. Magic: The Untold Story of U. S. Intelligence & the Evacuation Of... (01/01/2001) Publishers Weekly.