"We've done it based on race, we've done it based on religion, we've done it based on region," Mr Higbie said. "We've done it with Iran back a while ago. We did it during World War II with Japanese."
Megyn Kelly, the host of the show, seemed stunned by the suggestion.
"You're not proposing that we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope," she said.
AdvertisementMr Higbie, a former Navy SEAL, denied that, but said: "We need to protect America first."
The comments come as Mr Trump is to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo abe in a hastily organised meeting on Thursday evening (New York time). The meeting will be the first face-to-face foray into international diplomacy as president-elect for the Republican. Paul Horner believes his fake news stories helped get Trump elected. Photo: Bloomberg
The remarks were met with furious criticism by civil rights activists and Muslim organisations.
Robert McCaw, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights group, called the suggestion that Japanese internment camps were any kind of precedent "absolutely deplorable" and said that it would "return America to one of the darkest chapters of its history." Trump aide Kris Kobach is pushing for a national immigrant registry. Photo: AP
"The US Congress itself had apologised for the Japanese internment," McCaw said, referring to the Civil Liberties Act, which formally apologised for Japanese internment during the war and was signed into law by US president Ronald Reagan.
"I can't see how it would now be right to do the same thing to Muslims." An anti-Trump protester in Washington on Tuesday. Photo: Bloomberg
He said the two ideas – a database of names and internment camps based on religious or ethnic heritage – were inexorably linked.
"I really do feel as though the prospect of internment is always tied to registries of people," he said.
Mr Kobach, who is Kansas' secretary of state, was referring to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which he helped create while working at the Department of Justice.
The program was first proposed in 2002 and significant portions of it suspended nine years later in 2011.
The policy came under heavy criticism while it was in effect and afterward.
In a 2012 report, the Centre for Immigrants' Rights at Pennsylvania State University's law school called it a "tool that allowed the government to systematically target Arabs, Middle Easterners, Muslims, and South Asians" and a "clear example of discriminatory and arbitrary racial profiling".
Though a reinstatement of that program would not be as broad or sweeping as the database of Muslim residents that Mr Trump said during the Republican primaries he would "certainly implement", it set off a wave of criticism among many for whom it brought about the prospect of a wave of religious discrimination that could be an omen of worse to come.
Many non-immigrants and non-Muslims have reacted to Mr Kobach's comments on Friday by saying that they will simply "register as Muslim".
The Anti-Defamation League's chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, said that "if one day Muslims will be forced to register, that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim".