Densho Digital Archive
Steven Okazaki Collection
Title: Peter Irons Interview
Narrator: Peter Irons
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: November 11, 1983
Densho ID: denshovh-ipeter-03-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

Q: Could you talk about your uncovering of the suppression of evidence and how you came across it and what it means?

PI: When I started research on this book, the first thing I did was to ask the Justice Department for its files in the cases. It took a while to find them and uncover them. They'd been lost thirty years ago, but the government finally provided them to me. What I was looking for were really the documents that dealt with the government lawyers' strategy in these cases. What kind of arguments they were gonna make, what kind of cases they would cite, how they would develop the cases for the Supreme Court. What I found was totally shocking to me, was virtually the first document in these boxes was a charge by one of the Justice Department lawyers to the Solicitor General of the United States who argues all cases before the Supreme Court, is responsible for them. That crucial evidence in these cases, dealing with the loyalty of Japanese Americans and the military's argument that espionage had been committed was false. That in fact, this evidence was contradicted by the reports of other intelligence agencies. The government's own lawyers said, "There is a suppression of evidence in these cases. We have presented evidence to the Supreme Court that is based on lies and intentional falsehoods." General DeWitt's report justifying the evacuation was at the center of these allegations. DeWitt's report said the Japanese Americans belong to an enemy race whose loyalty cannot be presumed, that Japanese Americans had committed specific acts of espionage, that they had sent illegal radio transmissions to Japanese submarines off the coast, that they had made signals from the coast by light. The government lawyers, when they first found General DeWitt's report, asked the Attorney General to authorize an investigation by the FBI, the Federal Communications Commission, Naval Intelligence, of DeWitt's charges. The reports from those agencies showed beyond doubt that DeWitt had no foundation either for his charges of disloyalty or for his charges of espionage. The lawyers then asked the Attorney General to admit to the U.S. Supreme Court that these charges were false. In other words, to confess to the Supreme Court that they had been misled. Those requests were ignored. The government case presented to the Supreme Court, argued by the Solicitor General, did not admit the existence of the contradictory evidence. It presented the case as if DeWitt's charges were in fact true when they knew that they were not.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1983, 2010 Densho and Steven Okazaki. All Rights Reserved.