DETROIT - A member of the U.S. Civil
Rights Commission said Friday that he could foresee a scenario in
which the public would demand internment camps for Arab Americans if
Arab terrorists strike again in this country.
If there's a future terrorist attack in America ''and they come
from the same ethnic group that attacked the World Trade Center, you
can forget about civil rights,'' commission member Peter Kirsanow
The reason, he said, is that ``the public would be less concerned
about any perceived erosion of civil liberties than they are about
protecting their own lives.''
Kirsanow, who was appointed to the commission last year by
President Bush, said that he personally doesn't support internment
camps and the government would never envision setting them up. He
said he was merely saying public opinion would so strongly favor the
idea that it would be difficult to prevent. There would be a
''groundswell of opinion'' for such detentions, he said.
The remarks came during a raucous commission hearing in Detroit
in which Kirsanow and another conservative member, Jennifer
Braceras, defended U.S. antiterrorism efforts after Sept. 11.
''They had their own political agenda,'' said Kary Moss,
executive director of the Michigan chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union, referring to Braceras and Kirsanow.
A White House spokesman said Friday night that he could not
respond specifically to Kirsanow's comments without seeing a full
transcript of them, but said that the possibility of Arab internment
camps has never been discussed at the White House.
''The president has said repeatedly and often that this is not a
war against Arabs or Islam, this is a war against terror,'' White
House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. ``We have very close allies in
the Arab world who are integral partners in the war against
terrorism. . . . The president has said that ours is a war against
evil and extremists and that the teachings of Islam are the
teachings of peace and good.''
The seven-member commission, based in Washington, D.C., was in
Detroit for its monthly meeting, and heard testimony from
Arab-American leaders who said the government abused civil rights
following Sept. 11.
''It's becoming really ugly,'' said Imad Hamad, regional director
of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, during his
Hamad and others expressed concern about mass interviews of Arab
men, secret immigration hearings and profiling of drivers and
Kirsanow argued that Arab and Muslim Americans should accept the
country's new antiterrorism laws and complain less about
infringements upon their civil rights.
If the United States were to be be attacked again by Arabs, ''not
too many people will be crying in their beer if there are more
detentions, more stops, more profiling,'' Kirsanow