Department of Justice Admits Former Solicitor General Withheld Critical Evidence in WWII Japanese American Cases

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May 25, 2011
Photo Courtesy of Karen Korematsu
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In an unprecedented "confession of error" statement posted on the Department of Justice's website, Neal Katya, the Acting Solicitor General of the United States, acknowledged that Charles Fahy, Solicitor General during World War II, withheld key evidence in historic Supreme Court cases regarding the incarceration of Japanese Americans.

Katya explained that Fahy intentionally suppressed evidence favorable to Japanese Americans in lawsuits filed by Fred Korematsu (pictured here third from the left), a San Leandro welder convicted of violating government orders that Japanese Americans be incarcerated, and Gordon Hirabayashi, a University of Washington student who challenged curfew orders imposed on Japanese Americans prior to mass incarceration.  

Fahy refused to inform the court of an Office of Naval Intelligence report that concluded Japanese Americans were not a threat to national security. He also did not tell the court that the FBI and FCC had discredited claims of Japanese Americans using radio transmitters to communicate with enemy submarines.

The Supreme Court upheld Korematsu's and Hirabayashi's convictions, claiming that "military necessity" justified the government's targeting and mass incareration of Japanese Americans.

In 1983 and 1987, after the discovery of the evidence Katya cited, proving the government had known there was no grounds for the mass incarceration, both Korematsu and Hirabayashi re-opened their cases, leading to the overturning of their criminal convictions by federal courts.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Fred Koremastu died in 2005 at the age of 86.

Last year, the state designated January 30 of each year as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California. 

Each January 30 (which was Korematsu's birthday) the state of California will encourage schools to teach students about Fred Korematsu’s story and its relevance in today’s post-9/11 environment.

(Photo Courtesy of Karen Korematsu)

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