File No. 763.72114/4183

The Attorney General ( Gregory) to the Secretary of State

A.B. 6278–7

Sir: I have the honor, in response to your communication of October 28, 1918, dealing with the subject of internment of alien enemies of the Republic of Panama, to state that the immediate problem before this Department is one which is not covered in or solved by your communication.

It may be that international law permits the custody of an interned alien enemy to be transferred from the government of his residence to an allied government and that, therefore, there is no [Page 244]breach of international law when the Republic of Panama transfers to the United States Government the custody of an alien enemy interned by it. Our difficulty, however, arises from the question of whether this Government, under its own laws, namely section 4067 of the Revised Statutes, has the power to intern an alien enemy resident in the Republic of Panama and brought into this country against his own will.

The Department has come to the conclusion that section 4067 does not apply to such residents of the Republic of Panama and that there is no authority to issue a presidential order of internment in such a case.

It is our intention, therefore, to cancel the orders of internment made in these particular cases, and leave the question of the disposition of these alien enemies to be dealt with by the War Department.


For the Attorney General,
John Lord O’Brian

The Special Assistant to the Attorney General for War Work