The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation appreciates any mention of the Japanese American incarceration as a historic injustice founded on racism, suspicion, and hysteria. However, we strongly condemn the comparison of Tom Barrack, on trial for acting as an unregistered foreign agent, to the late Secretary Norman Mineta and the more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.
Tom Barrack, a real estate developer and an associate of former President Donald Trump, is charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to the FBI.
In his closing arguments on Tuesday, Nov. 1, Mr. Barrack’s defense attorney, Randall Jackson, compared his client’s prosecution to the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, saying, “It was done under the theory that these people could possibly, maybe, be engaged in something like espionage. Or that they could be possibly, maybe, be subject to the direction and control of the Japanese government.”
Jackson also compared Barrack to the late Secretary Norman Mineta, who was incarcerated at Heart Mountain as a child. “When you don’t truly understand something, it’s easy to approach it from a perspective where you view it as a threat without cause,” Jackson said in defense of his client. “If you think about it, every single one of the most unfortunate chapters in American history has involved that perspective.”
We are pleased that Mr. Jackson agrees that Japanese Americans were imprisoned without cause, as there was not a single instance of espionage in the Japanese American community. We will note, however, that Mr. Barrack is receiving something that Norman Mineta, his family and 120,000 other people of Japanese ancestry were never afforded – a trial by a jury of peers.
Furthermore, Secretary Mineta served 20 years in Congress and with distinction as a Cabinet official under two presidential administrations — Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush. President Bush awarded Secretary Mineta the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2006.
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation makes no judgment on the innocence or guilt of Mr. Barrack, but the use of clumsy analogies only serves to demean Secretary Mineta and the 120,000+ Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II.
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation preserves the site where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in Wyoming from 1942 through 1945. Their stories are told within the foundation’s museum, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located between Cody and Powell. For more information, call the center at (307) 754-8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.