On page 804 of Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, Conrad Black states regarding FBI director J. Edgar Hoover: “His finest hour had been his opposition to the internment of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast after Pearl Harbor in 1942.” I did not know that about Hoover.
Why was Hoover against internment camps for Japanese-Americans? Essentially, he did not think that there was any evidence that Japanese-Americans posed a danger to the security of the United States. This article states: “In his Final Report, [General John L.] DeWitt maintained that ship-to-shore communication had led to the sinking of American ships. But on February 9, 1942, J. Edgar Hoover denied the existence of any information showing ship-to-shore communication.” The article also states: “J. Edgar Hoover said that the internment decision was a result of politics and hysteria, not a measure of national security. ‘It is interesting to observe,’ Hoover noted, ‘that little mention has been made of the mass evacuation of enemy aliens.’ The FBI had arrested 733 Japanese aliens in the U.S. by 6:30 A.M. December 8, 1941.”
This article expresses that part about the enemy aliens a little more clearly: “Even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover opposed the mass relocation of Japanese Americans because he was convinced that the most likely spies or potential saboteurs among that population had already been rounded up in the initial sweep of ‘enemy aliens’ between December 7 and 13, 1941. During searches of Japanese American residences conducted by the FBI beginning in early February 1942, the Department of Justice reported that ‘We have not uncovered through these searches any dangerous persons that we did not otherwise know about.'” See here (on page 2) for Hoover’s memo to FDR aide General Edwin Wilson, stating that the FBI had already arrested Japanese aliens who were deemed to be subversive.
This article says that Hoover thought that the internment of Japanese-Americans was unconstitutional. I wish that the article went into more detail about Hoover’s views on this, but the article itself appears to consider the internment to be a violation of the fifth and sixth amendments of the U.S. Bill of Rights, since it entailed depriving Japanese-Americans of their liberty and property without due process (i.e., criminal charges and a trial).
Ann Coulter says in this column: “Absurdly, liberals claim to hate J. Edgar Hoover because of their passion for civil liberties. The left’s exquisite concern for civil liberties apparently did not extend to the Japanese. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt rounded up Japanese for the internment camps, liberals were awed by his genius. The Japanese internment was praised by liberal luminaries such as Earl Warren, Felix Frankfurter and Hugo Black. Joseph Rauh, a founder of Americans for Democratic Action — and celebrated foe of ‘McCarthyism’ — supported the internment. There was one lonely voice in the Roosevelt administration opposed to the Japanese internment — that of J. Edgar Hoover…Liberals deemed it appropriate to throw Japanese citizens into internment camps on the basis of no evidence of subversive activity whatsoever.”
Ann Coulter and other right-wingers I have read (see, for example, here and here) appear to be quite critical of the internment camps. (UPDATE: This article seems to suggest that, in 2005, Ann Coulter was saying something different, but it does not include an actual quotation of her.) I should also note that President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill granting reparations to surviving Japanese-Americans who had been interned in the camps, and President George H.W. Bush issued a public apology.
But there are some neo-conservatives who have retrospectively expressed support for the internment camps, implying that this piece of history is somehow relevant to how American Muslims should be treated in the U.S. See here. See also here for Michelle Malkin’s defense of her book defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. She states: “Liberal critics always ask if I’ve ever changed my mind about anything. Yes, I take back what I wrote in 2000; I have radically changed my mind about FDR’s actions to protect the homeland.” See here for good reviews of Malkin’s book, both pro and con.