File No. 763.72114/3546

The Secretary of State to the Secretary of War ( Baker)

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of April 27, 1918, transmitting a paraphrase of a telegram dated [Page 236]April 10, 1918, from the Commanding General, Panama Canal Department,1 stating that the Spanish Vice Consul in charge of German interests claims that aliens interned on Taboga Island are interned by the Republic of Panama and not by the United States, and questioning the jurisdiction of this Government in the premises. You transmit a memorandum1 by Col. Herbert A. White, formerly Judge Advocate of the Panama Canal Department, who is familiar with the details concerning the internment of these aliens and you state that in pursuance of a proposal to remove these interns to the United States in order that Taboga Island may revert to its previous status as a place of recuperation for employees of the Panama Canal Zone, these interned aliens sailed for the United States April 19, 1918. In view of the question of jurisdiction raised by the representative of German interests, you request an expression of the views of this Department in the premises.

In reply I beg to advise you that in view of all the circumstances it would seem possible and proper for the United States to accept the custody of civil interns held by Panama, and to hold them as Panamanian interns rather than as Amerion interns, by and under an informal arrangement with Panama, unless there is some provision or doctrine of military law which would make such construction illegal or inexpedient—a point which, the Department assumes, has already been considered by the War Department.

I have [etc.]

Robert Lansing
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.