Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Politics, MA


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Melissa Rogers

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2022 David Dupont


American History, Civil Liberties, Detention, Internment, National Security, United States

Subject Categories

History | Political Science


Significant changes in American domestic security policies were generally associated with periods of military conflicts. Laws that would pave the way for legalizing the surveillance and internment of civilian populations have their origin in the Quasi-War. Likewise, the practice of state property seizure under the Office of Alien Property Custodian and limited internment programs were first established during WWI. Mass civilian internment came into existence leading up to WWII. This trajectory continued in modern times with the extensive system of domestic surveillance post-9/11. In this paper, I argue for gaining a historical comprehension of these issues by exploring their origins and make the case for a restrained and appropriate security policy. Extensive security measures are costly and difficult to implement. It is in America’s self-interest to deliberately reflect on approaches to security that simultaneously maximize the protection and safety of Americans. A more comprehensive awareness of the US security policy record would likely lead future academics and policymakers to advocate for a recalibrated national security approach. This text is structured as a historical argument, progressing chronologically from the emergence of various US security and internment laws to the contemporary period. The analysis continues by exploring the historical ramifications of shying away from a thorough assessment of the purposes and goals of US domestic security policy during turbulent times. The sensible way ahead is a comprehensive reevaluation of the past in order to arrive at a more measured, while still highly effective, security policy. While the debate around inordinate repressive actions is marked by controversy since the initial discourse on the Alien and Sedition Acts, we now have the benefit of a documented extensive history over two centuries to draw on. Instead of encountering the issue as a new immature nation, we can tackle this issue with the confidence of a knowledgeable political system reliant on its historical record.