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Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview V
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 4, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-05-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Talk about the, addressing the suffering issue?

GH: My law team was very concerned about how to point out that I was suffering -- my food, my work opportunities, and so on. I, I was fully occupied 'til retirement. So he said, so they said, "It's hard to demonstrate that you were suffering." And if you're not suffering, what right do I have to appeal to remove the suffering? To which the appeals court stated, any American citizen who has been deprived of his rights from such factors as ancestry or religious creed or something of that type, if he's been deprived on those grounds then he is forever aggrieved -- and threw that question out.

TI: And so through this process, and again, I'm not sure exactly what level this is. This is the circuit court of appeals?

GH: This is the circuit court, which is immediately preceding the Supreme Court, and...

TI: So they vacated your conviction, but yet did not overturn the Supreme Court?

GH: Yeah. Well, they have no authority to overturn the Supreme Court conclusion, but they, they overturned the -- on data that they have now they overturned the grounds for, that were, were suppositions in earlier books, suppositions we subscribed to. However, we didn't have the data to back it. That supposition was based on pretty good sense it seems, because the data substantiates it. But it wasn't 'til the, the data was in hand that the appeals court was presented with the data from the federal archives.

TI: Well, it seems, I guess, I'm not sure what the right term, unfortunate, that this process didn't go all the way to the Supreme Court, just so that you were able to get your day at that level to address some of these issues at that level. I mean, what, how do you feel about that?

GH: I feel that. I felt we ought to wipe that out. Too bad we didn't wipe it out, but at the time the government today had so thoroughly overturned the thing foundationally that the government didn't feel they had any grounds to succeed by appealing. The only way you could appeal to the Supreme Court is for the losing side to put in arguments for a new hearing.

TI: So after the circuit court of appeals found in your favor, the government lawyers essentially gave up.

GH: Yeah.

TI: They said they did not want to...

GH: They threw the towel in.

TI: Although they would have to be the ones to appeal to the Supreme Court?

GH: That's right. That's right. That's the way the system is.

AI: Could you say a little bit about the nature of the evidence, the data that was found that was, why it was that it was so convincing that the government attorneys decided not to appeal?

GH: Well, the evidence, we found evidence of suppression of information which was available to various departments, statements by naval intelligence on the, and the Federal Communications Commission regarding investigation of the data of possible spy sounds they detected, and other kinds of information that were supposedly subversive information. They checked out everything, and not a single one dealt with foundational information nor, or connected them with Japanese population, residents.

And on, and the viewpoint regarding the, the basis on which the uprooting took place, it was not on the fact that there was evidence of espionage or sabotage, that sort of thing, against the persons of Japanese ancestry, and that we didn't have the time to investigate it. It was the fact that no data was presented, and that on the basis of emergency, which was later denied to have been the existing situation. Therefore, the decision to use the citizenship -- you know, they said, "We couldn't, we didn't have the time to investigate the suspective, suspects from solid citizens. There was, there was no evidence. There was no evidence we found that, that they were suspects even." So the grounds, absence of grounds of doing this, and they used those grounds to move us. I was, I was subject to those statements only because of my ancestry. And being tested on that grounds is enough to throw it out, they said. And they, they said this without, with such force that -- you know they said, "Any time somebody's rights are absolved because of such immutable things as race or background or origin, has nothing to do with behavior." Therefore, it's thrown out, and they didn't have anything to refute those arguments. These are getting down to technicalities. Did we have the right to appeal in the first place? Well, we do. We did have the rights. And the conclusion holds. So, in this sense, I didn't get my time back. There's no way you could do that. So... and those who, who suffered from shame and all that type of personality depravation, they had to suffer it. But after, ex post facto, afterwards, they got their thing back. It means, we still had to work hard for it, and we, we made some grounds. We can only keep it if we keep working at it. We don't, there's nothing that says, "Now, we can relax. We're okay now." It's only okay if we look after our doors.

TI: That's good. I think that's a good place to stop.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.