In 1975, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) launched a campaign for reparations for those Japanese who had been forced to evacuate the West Coast during World War II.  A heavily financed lobbying effort came to fruition five years later when the House of Representatives passed a bill creating the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.  The commission’s primary mission was to review “the facts and circumstances surrounding Executive Order Numbered 9066, issued February 19, 1942, and the impact of such Executive Order on American citizens and permanent resident aliens.”  The commission was also directed to “recommend appropriate remedies.”

That the commission was to recommend “remedies” indicates that government guilt had already been assumed: The commission needed only to gather evidence to support that conclusion and determine the nature of reparations.  Nearly all nine commissioners—three appointed by President Carter and six by Congress—had long histories of leftist activism.  Joan Z. Bernstein, who would chair the commission, had already declared the evacuation “a blot on the history of the U.S.”  Former Supreme Court justice and National Lawyers Guild member Arthur J. Goldberg had called it “a horrendous thing.”  Hugh B. Mitchell, a representative from Washington state, termed it “a great wrong.”  Former Massachusetts congressman Robert F. Drinan, S.J., had not only made similar pronouncements but had asked, referring to the evacuees, “How much are we going to give them?”

Also appointed were Arthur S. Flemming, a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission until fired by President Reagan; former senator Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts, the first of only two blacks to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction; William M. Marutani, a Nisei evacuee who was the JACL’s legal counsel; Ishmael V. Gromoff, a Russian Orthodox priest evacuated from the Aleutian Islands when the Japanese invaded; and Daniel E. Lungren, a freshman representative who had conservative credentials but also a significant number of Japanese-Americans in his district.

The commission was given three-dozen staff members; more than a third were Japanese-Americans.  Many of the others had been active in the campaign to secure reparations.  The staff included no World War II military historians, intelligence officers, or government officials.  Witnesses were not put under oath, and those opposed to reparations were interrupted or drowned out by jeering spectators.

John J. McCloy, the assistant secretary of war who monitored the evacuation and relocation in 1942, said that “it became clear from the outset of my testimony that the Commission was not at all disposed to conduct an objective investigation.”  The officer in charge of the evacuation, Karl R. Bendesten, simply stopped in the middle of his testimony, saying “I knew it would be fruitless.  Every commissioner had made up his mind before he was appointed.”  Retired Brig. Gen. A.W. Beeman said, “I tried to give testimony before the Commission in Seattle.  However, I was drummed out by a lecture on ‘racism’ delivered by Dr. Arthur S. Flemming.”

Even more disturbing was the Orwellian omission of former senator S.I. Hayakawa’s testimony from the commission’s final report.  Contending with boos and jeers, Hayakawa testified against reparations, strongly and eloquently, but none of it can be found in the final report, a 500-page polemic entitled Personal Justice Denied.  The commission apparently was also ignorant of the most critical information concerning the decision to evacuate the Japanese: In the original edition of Personal Justice Denied, there is no mention of MAGIC, the decryptions of intercepted Japanese transmissions, which reveal widespread espionage by resident Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans along the West Coast.

Soon after Personal Justice Denied was published, David D. Lowman, a career intelligence officer with the National Security Agency, wrote an article in the New York Times questioning the absence of MAGIC.  When reporters asked Bern-stein why MAGIC was ignored, she replied, evidently chagrined, that the commissioners had never heard of it.  Attempting to avoid further embarrassment, the commission quickly released, with no expert input, a five-page error-filled addendum claiming, incredibly, that a “review of the ‘Magic’ cables does not alter the Commission’s position.”  Dan Lungren, a cautious conservative who had done little until this point to thwart the commission’s agenda, added his own footnote:

For us as a Commission to deny that the decoded Japanese cables compiled in the MAGIC volumes did not influence the decision made by America’s leaders, tends to undercut the credibility of our historical pursuit.

David F. Trask, chief historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said that the report was

in the form of a legal brief rather than a history. . . . All is calculated to support the conclusion that the government denied personal justice to those interned during World War II.  Facts and arguments that might tend to support a contrary conclusion are either excluded or rejected.

Nonetheless, Congress, not without dissent, accepted the conclusion of the commission—that EO 9066 was based not on military considerations but on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” and later passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, giving each of those relocated or interned $20,000—totaling more than a billion dollars.  Congress also allocated millions for teaching the history of the evacuation according to Personal Justice Denied.  School textbooks now include excerpts from the report and omit any reference to MAGIC.