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[TIMELINE] 1943: Census Released Japanese Americans' Data

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  • madchinaman
    In 1943, Census released Japanese Americans data By Teresa Watanabe, Times Staff Writer http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/la-na-
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2007
      In 1943, Census released Japanese Americans' data
      By Teresa Watanabe, Times Staff Writer

      The Census Bureau turned over confidential information, including
      names and addresses, to help the U.S. government identify individual
      Japanese Americans during World War II, according to government
      documents released by two scholars Friday.

      The documents validate long-held suspicions among Japanese Americans
      that information about them collected under confidentiality pledges
      was released to the government.

      In 2000, the Census Bureau acknowledged and apologized for its role
      in sharing aggregate data with the U.S. military to help relocate
      Japanese Americans from the West Coast to inland camps after Japan's
      1941 Pearl Harbor attack.

      But Friday's disclosure represented the first confirmation that the
      bureau also shared information about individuals — in this case, the
      names and addresses of Japanese Americans in the Washington, D.C.,
      area. A list of 79 names was handed over to aid a Secret Service
      investigation into possible threats to the president.

      The disclosures were legal under wartime legislation. But they were
      arguably unethical and could affect public trust in the bureau's
      confidentiality pledges as it prepares to launch its 2010 census,
      according to the scholars, William Seltzer of Fordham University and
      Margo Anderson of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The pair
      presented their findings at a New York population conference.

      "It's very hard to do a census if people mistrust the census takers,"
      Seltzer said.

      Census Bureau spokeswoman Christa Jones stressed that the wartime
      actions were legal and that privacy protections are far stronger
      today. "It's our commitment to protect the confidentiality in
      everything we do," she said.

      However, Seltzer and Anderson said questions continued to plague the
      bureau. In 2004, census officials came under fire after disclosures
      that they provided specially tabulated population statistics on Arab
      Americans to the Department of Homeland Security. The disclosures
      were legal and involved publicly available data, but they caused an

      Community advocates said the new disclosures would increase
      suspicions about information gathering. "People of color have always
      been suspicious of … federal agencies that collect information," said
      Lane Hirabayashi, a UCLA Asian American studies professor. "The
      historical pattern is that the data is used to the disadvantage of
      people of color without the money and legal resources to defend

      Hussam Ayloush of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in
      Anaheim said many Muslim and Arab Americans suspected their privacy
      rights had been violated by federal officials. "It's open season on
      all privacy rights under the pretext of national security," he said.

      According to Seltzer and Anderson, the Census Bureau helped lobby
      Congress to pass the Second War Powers Act in March 1942, authorizing
      census data to be shared with other government agencies "for use in
      connection with the conduct of war." The provision expired in 1947.

      In August 1943, the Secret Service requested a list of all Japanese
      Americans in Washington to aid an investigation into reported threats
      to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The investigation followed
      congressional hearings into alleged anti-American activities by
      Japanese Americans, including a report that one man had said "we
      ought to have enough guts to kill Roosevelt."

      The man, Juichi Uyemoto, had already been committed to a mental
      hospital for schizophrenia. But Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau
      Jr. requested the list of names.

      Community advocates called for new assurances that privacy
      protections would be strengthened. "It's a dangerous thing when
      citizens no longer trust their government," Ayloush said.
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