Volume 2 of Double Exposure commemorates the ongoing fight to fulfil the promise of freedom and equality for all American citizens, from the Civil War and Reconstruction to the present. It features powerful images from, for example, Leonard Freed’s series, Black in White America, Ernest C. Withers’s photographs of the Sanitation Workers’ Solidarity March in Nashville, and Charles Moore’s documentation of police brutality during the 1963 Birmingham Childrens’ Crusade.
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and a professor at NYU School of Law.
Histories of civil rights movements in America generally place little or no emphasis on the activism of Asian Americans. Yet, as this fascinating new study reveals, there is a long and distinctive legacy of civil rights activism among foreign and American-born Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino students, who formed crucial alliances based on their shared religious affiliations and experiences of discrimination.
Stephanie Hinnershitz tells the story of the Asian American campus organizations that flourished on the West Coast from the 1900s through the 1960s. Using their faith to point out the hypocrisy of fellow American Protestants who supported segregation and discriminatory practices, the student activists in these groups also performed vital outreach to communities outside the university, from Californian farms to Alaskan canneries. Highlighting the unique multiethnic composition of these groups, Race, Religion, and Civil Rights explores how the students’ interethnic activism weathered a variety of challenges, from the outbreak of war between Japan and China to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Drawing from a variety of archival sources to bring forth the authentic, passionate voices of the students, Race, Religion, and Civil Rights is a testament to the powerful ways they served to shape the social, political, and cultural direction of civil rights movements throughout the West Coast.
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has issued new rules that give prosecutors in Washington greater oversight and control over national security cases after the collapse of several high-profile prosecutions led to allegations that Chinese-Americans were being singled out as spies.
The new rules are intended to prevent such missteps, but without undermining a counterespionage mission that is a top priority for the Obama administration.
In December 2014, the Justice Department dropped charges against two former Eli Lilly scientists, Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li, who had been accused of leaking proprietary information to a Chinese drugmaker. Three months later, prosecutors dropped a case against Sherry Chen, a government hydrologist in Ohio who had been charged with secretly downloading information about dams.
Then in September, the Justice Department dismissed all charges against a Temple University professor, Xiaoxing Xi, after leading physicists testified that prosecutors had entirely misunderstood the science underpinning their case.
“We cannot tolerate another case of Asian-Americans being wrongfully suspected of espionage,” Representative Judy Chu, Democrat of California, said last fall. “The profiling must end.”
While those cases raised the specter of Chinese espionage, none explicitly charged the scientists as spies. The cases involved routine criminal laws such as wire fraud, so national security prosecutors in Washington did not oversee the cases.
In a letter last month to federal prosecutors nationwide, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates said that would change. All cases affecting national security, even tangentially, now require coordination and oversight in Washington. That had always been the intention of the rule, but Ms. Yates made it explicit.
“The term ‘national security issue’ is meant to be a broad one,” she wrote.
Ms. Yates told federal prosecutors that consulting with experienced national security prosecutors in Washington would help “ensure prompt, consistent and effective responses” to national security cases.
The letter, which was not made public, was provided to The New York Times by a government official.
John P. Carlin, the Justice Department’s top national security prosecutor, reorganized his staff in Washington in recent years to focus more aggressively on preventing theft of America’s trade secrets. The new rules mean that espionage experts will review cases like Dr. Xi’s. Such cases “shall be instituted and conducted under the supervision” of Mr. Carlin or other top officials, the rules say.
Peter R. Zeidenberg, a lawyer for the firm Arent Fox, who represented Dr. Xi and Ms. Chen, called the new rules “a very positive step.”
“It’s welcome, and it’s overdue,” he said. “A bad reaction would be ‘We’re not going to do anything. Everything is fine.’ ”
Several of the cases fell apart when defense lawyers confronted prosecutors with new evidence or previewed the arguments they planned to make in court. In traditional white-collar criminal investigations, those conversations between prosecutors and defense lawyers often happen before charges are filed. In cases involving even a whiff of espionage, however, such conversations rarely happen. Authorities worry that suspects, tipped off to the investigation, will run or destroy evidence.
The absence of those conversations makes it important, then, that such cases receive an extra layer of review, defense lawyers said.
Ms. Yates did not mention the botched cases in her letter. But at the Justice Department, they were regarded as unfortunate — and perhaps preventable — black eyes that detracted from a string of successful espionage prosecutions. The United States faces an onslaught of economic espionage and other spying from China. Last year, Chinese hackers stole a trove of government data — including Social Security numbers and fingerprints — on more than 21 million people.
Last month, Su Bin, a Chinese businessman, pleaded guilty to trying to hack into American defense contractors to steal information on the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and Boeing’s C-17 military cargo plane. In January, a Chinese citizen pleaded guilty to trying to steal corn seeds from American companies and ship them to China to replicate their genetic properties.
Mr. Zeidenberg and others have argued that rushed cases create suspicion and unfairly tarnish reputations. In the case against the Eli Lilly scientists, prosecutors were unsparing in their description.
“If the superseding indictment in this case could be wrapped up in one word, that word would be ‘traitor,’” Cynthia Ridgeway, an assistant United States attorney, told a federal court in Indiana last year, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.
The Justice Department gave no explanation for later dropping the case, saying only that it was done “in the interests of justice.”
Prosecutors made a similar statement last year when dropping charges against Dr. Xi. The dismissal suggested investigators did not understand and did not do enough to learn the science before they brought charges. Prosecutors had accused Dr. Xi, chairman of Temple’s physics department, with sharing schematics for a piece of American-made laboratory equipment, a pocket heater, with China. After leading scientists — including the inventor of the pocket heater — testified that the schematics showed an entirely different type of heater, the Justice Department dropped the case.
Though prosecutors dropped charges against Ms. Chen, the government has said it intends to fire her. She is fighting that decision.
The Committee of 100 submits the following comment on Privacy Act: Implementation of Exemptions; Department of Homeland Security/ALL–038 Insider Threat Program System of Records, Docket Number DHS-2015-0050:
The Privacy Act was enacted to safeguard against misuse and abuse of information and data about an individual collected by the government. DHS proposes major, extensive exemptions from the Privacy Act under the National Insider Threat Program, including avoidance of accounting for disclosure, denial of an individual from accessing his or her own records, and collection and retention of information about an individual regardless of relevancy or accuracy and without notification.
The Committee of 100 strongly supports law enforcement in general, and has done so in the past. There is a singular concern in this instance that the DHS proposal is too broad and should reflect a needed protection or assurance about the importance of protection of innocent individuals who may be caught up in DHS’ activities and processes.
Historically in our country, Asian Americans have been subjected to incredible discrimination including the Chinese Exclusion Act. Again, during the Second World War, individual census data was used to identify, collect and intern Japanese Americans although such disclosure was prohibited by law. In more recent times, an overzealous desire to protect American properties has overstepped legal boundaries. A Chinese American federal contractor was prosecuted by a biased investigation, which ultimately led to the presiding federal judge apologizing for the inappropriate prosecution and treatment at the end of the trial. Another Chinese American federal employee was wrongfully accused by an unreliable source based on the former’s national origin; serious damage had already been inflicted on the individual by the time the government dismissed her case. These matters shattered dreams, and destroyed careers, lives, and financial security.
Today, hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans serve our nation loyally and honorably as federal employees and contractors. The DHS proposal, as it stands, increases the risk that innocent individuals will be falsely accused in secret due to misunderstanding, prejudice, or
bigotry, and subject to unjust and damaging investigations and prosecutions with no recourse.
Therefore, the Committee of 100 recommends that the DHS proposal be modified to allow, at a minimum, for:
An individual to be allowed to review at least a summary of his or her security file upon request;
An individual, upon investigation or when accused of wrongdoing, to be allowed full access to his or her security file as part of due process;
Irrelevant and inaccurate information to be purged from the individual’s records when their status is clear;
Publicly available statistical summaries to be produced to track and monitor the status and trends of the collection and use of information;
Third-party monitoring to be established to review regularly the inherent policies and practices related to the program.
Thank you for considering our comments.
I recently dug up this 2014 TED talk by Asian American author, civic educator and politics commentator Eric Liu. In this talk, Mr. Liu put forth the simple but often overlooked idea that the power of individual citizens are best realized at the local level, in the arena of the city. Mr. Liu was President Clinton’s speechwriter so of course his own talk is very engaging. I was reminded of Mr. Liu’s work by Wen’s recent essay urging Asian Americans to engage in local public service and politics.
A few days ago, a group of community volunteers started the Philadelphia Tri-State Chinese American Association. The mission of this nonprofit organization is to encourage and support Chinese Americans in local public service and politics. I think this is a wonderful and timely act.