What were the times in history when civil liberties were suspended during wartime? What was the impact these decisions had on American society?
During the Quasi-War with France in 1798, President John Adams passed the Sedition Act, which criminalized criticism of the government. Later, during the Civil War, President Lincoln suspended several civil liberties. He revoked the writ of habeas corpus, and his actions allowed people deemed disloyal to the Union (particularly in the border states) to be held indefinitely without trial. He also established martial law in volatile border states and used military tribunals instead of regular courts to try suspects. The right to freedom of speech and assembly were also restricted.
During World War I, large-scale disagreement with the American participation in the war caused the government to pass the Espionage Act of 1917 to discourage people from aiding the enemy or interfering with the recruitment of solders. The courts used to the law to punish people who were opposed to the war, and the law was upheld in the 1919 Supreme Court case Schenck v. US. The Sedition Act of 1918 (really a set of amendments to the Espionage Act) curbed speech that was critical of the government (it was later repealed in 1920).
During World War II, Japanese Americans on the West Coast were interned, unconstitutionally, in inland camps. It was wrongly thought that Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans would aid a Japanese invasion of the United States. When they were removed from their homes along the West Coast, their property was generally taken away from them (or they found it impossible to maintain their property from the internment camps). During the Vietnam War, the government conducted surveillance of domestic groups and people who opposed the war.
Many argue that in the long term, these decisions weakened the power of the Constitution and people's faith in the inviolability of the Constitution and civil liberties. Though in most cases Constitutional rights were restored, these actions caused long-lasting damage. For example, many Japanese Americans interned during World War II lost their livelihoods, and some even died in the internment camps because they did not have access to high-quality medical care.