Intelligence: America And The Enemy Within


November 21, 2009: The CIA has produced a new batch of TV ads for recruiting Arab and Iranian-Americans. Especially those with a good knowledge of the languages and cultures of the old country. Such recruiting has been a tricky business, because we are war with an entity that identifies itself via culture and religion; not nationality. A polyglot nation like the United States has citizens, and non-citizens, from all parts of the world. This creates opportunities (for recruiting intelligence operatives) and dangers (spies in our midst) in wartime. And we are at war, with over a dozen Islamic terrorist attacks within the U.S. so far this year. All but one of those attacks was aborted before anyone (but a few terrorists) were hurt. Intelligence operatives who understand Islam and Arabic were instrumental in detecting and neutralizing these attacks.

The war on terror is basically a struggle against an Islamic radical movement that believes the world should be one big Islamic dictatorship, run by Moslem clergy. This appeals to many Moslems, no matter where they live. Thus there have been dozens of terrorist attacks in Europe and North America (most of them aborted before they could be carried out) by Moslem living there. This is more of a problem in Europe, where there are far more Moslems, and a more hostile (to migrants) atmosphere that produces more angry Moslems willing to kill for the cause of Global Islamic Domination. But even in the United States, there are many Moslems who believe there is a war going on between Moslems and infidels (non-Moslems), and violence is needed to safeguard Moslems.

This has caused a certain amount of tension within the Moslem communities in Europe and North America. Many Moslems feel like they are not trusted by their fellow citizens, because their loyalty to their new country is doubted. This is an understandable feeling in wartime. To get a better feeling for how this actually works out, consider what happened in past wars.

For example, during World War I, there were several groups of German intelligence operatives, including active saboteurs, who hid among the German-American population. In addition, there was popular pressure on the German-American community to "prove" their loyalty. As a result, many German language newspapers ceased publication, or switched to an English language format. This angered many German-Americans, causing resentments that took decades to subside.

During World War II, it was much the same. Except this time there were three "suspicious" nationalities (Japanese, Italian and German). All three had produced, before America entered the war, groups backing the new political movements back in the old country. The FBI knew that there were enemy spies in all three ethnic groups. And the Japanese spy networks were the most difficult to penetrate, largely for cultural reasons.

Much crucial information regarding Japanese espionage networks on the West Coast  remained secret for many years because this data was obtained by cryptanalysis (the MAGIC system). What MAGIC seemed to reveal was that Japanese diplomats had established an extensive system of Japanese-Americans agents on the West Coast. As with many German-Americans and Italian-Americans, there were many Japanese-Americans who were still loyal to "the Old Country."

For example, some 20,000 Japanese-Americans were in Japan at the beginning of the war, all of whom (with few exceptions) renounced their American citizenship and joined the Japanese war effort. Given the nature of Japanese society and the war fever then present in Japan, it is doubtful many of these Japanese-Americans had much choice in the matter. But many of them promptly joined the Japanese armed forces or enthusiastically supported the Japanese war effort. Several Japanese-American women, known collectively as "Tokyo Rose" became prominent delivering English language radio broadcasts to American troops. One of these women was later convicted of treason, but subsequently pardoned.

The MAGIC intercepts did not detail every Japanese-Americans agent, because not all the messages could be deciphered and even then, the Japanese diplomats in America did not always use names that could be traced to a specific individual in the United States. But the FBI had picked up on some of this activity. What the MAGIC intercepts confirmed was that the extent of the Japanese support was larger than anyone had previously suspected and there was no way to assure that the majority of these traitors would be picked up even if the MAGIC information was used in a round up. 

While the "invasion panic" on the West Coast, along with anti-Japanese attitudes stemming from Pearl Harbor and the well publicized Japanese atrocities in the China before the war, were a major cause of removing all Japanese-Americans from the West Coast, the main reason was the evidence of Japanese espionage activities. The Germans and Italians also had thousands of pro¬-fascist supporters in America, and thousands of these were also rounded up. The same could have been done among Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, but the added invasion hysteria and bad feelings because of Pearl Harbor, led to one of the less flattering incident in U.S. history.

There were also a few Japanese-Americans removed from Hawaii, where they comprised a large minority of the population. The main reason why the removals were not on the same scale as on the West Coast was that Hawaii was under martial law early in the war, and the West Coast was not. There was also the fact that it would have been a logistical nightmare early in the war to move that many people back to the mainland. There was also a labor shortage on Hawaii during the war and, finally, the Hawaiian population was a rather less paranoid about their Japanese-Americans neighbors than were the folks on the mainland.

Once war was declared there occurred the ancient practice of rounding up enemy citizens and others thought to be of dubious loyalty. Some 16,810 enemy aliens (non-citizens, who were not permanent residents) were taken into custody (64 percent German and Italian, the rest Japanese). These "internees" were imprisoned in what we would today call medium security prisons. But they were definitely imprisoned. This was normal in wartime. The only exceptions were American citizens of Japanese or German ancestry caught in those respective nations when war was declared. In these cases, the Japanese and German governments coerced (where needed) these Americans to "be loyal to the fatherland" and join the fight against their adopted country.

The more controversial program was the relocation of Japanese-Americans (legally resident aliens and citizens alike) from the West Coast. This began in late February, 1942, when, on the basis of Executive Order number 9066, signed by President Roosevelt on 19 February 1942, the West Coast was declared an "Exclusion Zone." This meant that any one of questionable loyalty to the United States was ordered to move to another part of the country. Rather than try to separate loyal from disloyal Japanese-Americans, all persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from the zone. The program was mandatory and, and beginning in April 110,000 Japanese-Americans were sent to relocation centers. About 40 percent of these people were long-term residents who were excluded by racist laws from becoming U.S. citizens. 

The 40,000 adult non-citizen Japanese-American legal residents being relocated were questioned about their loyalty to the United States. Some 18,000 of them refused to renounce the Emperor of Japan or swear allegiance to the United States and were promptly interned as if they were enemy aliens.

It should be kept in mind that most Japanese immigration to the United States occurred before the 1930s, a time when life was quite hard in Japan. But from the 1930s on, while the rest of the world was mired in the Great Depression, Japan prospered and Japanese at home and abroad took pride in their country’s accomplishments. The improved situation in Japan, plus the usual racism immigrants suffered in their new country, caused many Japanese to return home during the 1930s. This was why there were 20,000 Japanese with American citizenship in Japan when the war broke out.

Japanese intelligence officials were well aware of the changed attitudes of overseas Japanese and they set about creating networks of spies and informers to take advantage of it. The coded messages Japanese diplomats sent home were decrypted by American code breakers and it was this information, the shock of Pearl Harbor, the invasion of the Philippines and the publics perception that the West Coast would be attacked that led to the relocation program.

Once in the camps, those who did profess their loyalty did not have to sit out the war in the "concentration camps." If they could find jobs and housing in another part of the country, they could go there and live freely until the war was over. The West Coast was still off limits because it was particularly vulnerable due to many the military bases and war factories located there. These facilities would provide much of the support for the war effort in the Pacific. If Japanese agents were in place, radio messages could be sent to Japan detailing what ships were where and in what shape. A lot of information could be picked up from talkative defense workers and sailors.

Moreover, the racism worked both ways, as the Japanese were reluctant to trust a non-Japanese as an agent. The Japanese-Americans were a perfect population from which to recruit agents, and this was exactly what the Japanese did. Moreover, many Japanese-Americans made no secret of the their loyalties before the war. But it was the ones who kept quiet that had the FBI worried. 

The FBI had been keeping tabs on various Japanese-American organizations. Some of these were criminal organizations, such as the Tokyo Club and the Toyo Club, known to have ties with the Yakuza (Japanese gangsters, organized like the American “Mafia”), back in Japan. Others were military, such as the Society of the Black Dragon (more properly the Amur River Society), the Imperial Comradeship Society, and the Japanese Military Servicemen’s League, allegedly composed of Japanese veterans living in the U.S., which were secretly funded by the Imperial Army. Indeed, it was feared that there were as many as 10,000 secret Japanese reservists living in the U.S. During the China Incident, Japanese reservists living in Shanghai and other cities had proven a major asset during military operations. Some Japanese-American groups had ties to similar pro-fascist German and Italian groups.

Some say that the Japanese should not have been treated any differently than Germans or Italians. In fact, to a great extent they weren’t. Despite the “better” image of Italian- and German-Americans, the government actually began to round some of them up even before it began rounding up Japanese-Americans. The first persons “relocated” under Executive Order 9066 were over 10,000 German- and Italian-Americans, beginning in February of 1942. These people were also forcibly removed from the West Coast, because the military commander for the region believed there were Axis agents among them who would provide material aid to a Japanese invasion. This was supposed to have been only the initial stage in the evacuation of several hundred thousand Italian- and German-Americans, but in the end the army was overruled. Nevertheless, nearly several hundred thousand additional Italian- and German-Americans had severe restrictions placed on their activities and movements: Italian-born persons, for example, could no longer work as fishermen or live within a certain distance of the coast, a matter which proved particularly embarrassing in the case of the Italian-American mayor of San Francisco. Several hundred members of other ethnic minorities, notably Hungarian- and Romanian-Americans, were also relocated, and thousands more --by one estimate as many as 700,000 thousand-- had restrictions placed on their activities.

What caused the panic that led to the Japanese-Americans round-up on the West Coast was the fact that Japan was seen as threatening an invasion of the West Coast, while at worst the European Axis were a threat to shipping with their submarines in the Atlantic. The Pearl Harbor attack was also a major factor, as it was seen as a treacherous thing to do while, at the same time, Japanese diplomats in Washington were attempting to resolve the differences between the two nations. Germany and Italy declared war after Pearl Harbor, without benefit of any sneak attacks or other real, or apparent, treachery.

Fears that Japanese-Americans might represent a potential "fifth column" were also fanned by the Niihau incident. His airplane damaged by American anti-aircraft fire over Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Japanese fighter pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi managed to crash land on Niihau, the smallest of the inhabited Hawaiian islands. Convincing a local Japanese-American that the arrival of the Emperor's forces was imminent, the pilot and the Japanese-American embarked upon a violent rampage, terrorizing the island until killed several days later, leaving behind a trail of dead and injured people. In addition, the collaboration of many locally resident Japanese with Japanese occupation forces in the Philippines and other areas only strengthened the hand of those who advocated relocation of Japanese-Americans.

While an actual invasion of the West Coast was beyond Japanese capabilities, public opinion in 1942 thought otherwise. "Something had to be done," and if that something meant trampling on the Bill of Rights in the process, it was done. And regretted later. But the government knew something they dared not reveal at the time.

The American people, and government, began to regret the removal even before the war was over. Japanese-Americans fought bravely in Europe and the Pacific. The accounts of their uncommon courage in the defense of their country, despite their shabby treatment, began to make headlines in 1944. But from the beginning, there was no official policy of punishing the Japanese-Americans beyond removing them from what was then considered a war zone. The officials in charge of supervising the removal were instructed to be generous in making necessary financial arrangements. While many of the Japanese-Americans were farmers, few owned their land, most leased it. These farmers were paid for their crops in the ground and arrangements were made for leases to be taken over for the duration of the "emergency." After the war, the returning Japanese-Americans were able to make claims for losses that occurred in any event and over a quarter billion dollars (in current money) were paid by the government to satisfy these terms. About three dozen German- and Italian-Americans also received reparations for their losses due to internment, despite the fact that over 10,000 were moved, and scores of thousands more had restrictions placed on their activities.

Over the years, the myth has grown up that an entirely innocent Japanese-Americans population was thoughtlessly uprooted and tossed into concentration camps in a fit of racist hysteria. The truth was a bit more complex. Many of the Japanese-Americans so interned were disloyal, many openly so. Of those military age males who spent the war in the camps, only six percent volunteered for military service. And many of those interned were, by their own admission, loyal to Japan, not America. But most Japanese-Americans did not spend the war in the internment camps. Ironically, the guilt among Americans built in the decades after the war. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided $20,000 in further reparations to all surviving Japanese-Americans who had spent time in the camps. This was paid to those who were loyal, as well as those who weren't. No similar “compensation” was paid to Italian- and German-Americans whose liberties had been interfered with.

All of this is very relevant to the current situation Moslem-Americans find themselves in. The Islamic terrorism is very real, and continues to threaten the United States. Many American Moslems are of dubious loyalty, and the best way to detect them is to have loyal Moslem-Americans speak up. This happens to such a frequent extent that al Qaeda warns its operatives to stay away from Moslem-Americans. But it is the enemy within, the few Moslem Americans that believe is Islamic radicalism, and know to keep the extent of their radicalism secret, that pose the biggest danger. Thus the need to recruit more Moslems into the intelligence agencies, to insure that everyone on that end of things understands who the enemy is, and how they think.



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