Civil Liberties

Friday’s Paranoia Report

Section of 1940 U.S. Census form

The US government has taken pains to assure us the information it gathers in the official census
will be kept private, and not used for, you know, unpleasant purposes. Not that we believed them, of course.

Well, now that paranoia has been officially validated.

This morning, two scholars of census history at Fordham University released the results of a study that substantiates long-denied rumors that the US Census Bureau provided detailed information that resulted in the rounding up of 120,000 Japanese American citizens and legal residents during World War II.

And if, by some chance, you were delusional enough to think the government did away with those bad old habits, the Fordham researchers also revealed the creepy fact that, in 2004, the Census Bureau provided at least zip code level info tracking where Arab Americans could be located.

(Gee, with an upsurge in xenophobia against undocumented immigrants, how else might census information be used?)

I was alerted to the story in the early A.M. hours by the office of California Congressman Mike Honda (Santa Clara County)—-who, spent his childhood in the Southeastern Colorado internment camp of Amache—. (Local Note: LA’s Japanese American residents were shipped, in some cases, to nearby Manzanar, but also out of state to Amache, Gila River, Arizona, and the antonymically-named Heart Mountain in Wyoming.)

Furious at the news, Honda calls the practice “contrary to the fundamental American principle of protecting civil liberties, and promises to explore legislative remedies.

Legislative remedy or no, as the 2010 census approaches, the Census folks might want to remember that, in the early 1980s in West Germany, a massive boycott followed by a court injunction blocked that country’s census for several years. Eventually Germany’s top court ruled that there were a lot of questions the Germans simply didn’t have to answer.


  • Don’t boycott. If they ask something that bothers you just tell them you don’t remember or can’t recall. If it works for the Administration . . .

  • On one census, they wanted to know how many toilets that I had in my house. I told them that I had no intention to answer that as my bathrooms were not engaged in interstate commerce and that the U.S. government had no security risk from them.

    I even thought about “Doctor Zhivago,” in which the doctor’s house was appropriated by the government to provide a home for strangers, because it large and that was fair. As for strangers wanting to know about my bathrooms, let them use the toilets at the 7-11, is what I say.

    I did feel sorry for the census taker, though, who was just doing her job, so I told her that the information is on file at the courthouse or that she could guess, which shouldn’t be hard for our subdivision. I gave her hints and she guessed right. Still, I didn’t answer it, even under threat of law.

    Maybe I’ll have to move to Germany before the next one, because I’m still going to be stubborn and not answer their probing questions.

    I would like to see a list of the proposed questions before the next census and before it’s too late to protest them.

    Celeste, why waste time on such trivial topics when baseball season is starting? The Braves play an exhibition against the White Sox tonight and tomorrow, and then the regular season starts. Good luck to the Dodgers.

  • rlc, I’ll tell the census taker to leave the census forms with me to mail. Then, I’ll “accidentally or carelessly” stuff them in my socks and go down to a construction trailer and hide them and then later retrieve them and shred them. If it works for Clinton and Berger on covering up issues related to national security, it better work for me on my bathrooms.

  • Pretty funny, Woody. Left me spitting afternoon ice tea and, as usual, alarming the cat. I’ll try and get my priorities in order (White Sox….Dodgers….yadda, yadda)

    In the meantime, us grrrlls often don’t usually wear the proper sox for document stuffing. (And it takes serious cleavage to accommodate much in the way of paperwork. Sadly, genetics are against me on that one.)

  • The Situation
    The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 led us to suspect the Japanese were preparing a full-scale attack on the west coast of the United States. Moreover, Japan’s rapid military conquest of Asia and the Pacific between 1936 and 1942 made their military forces seem frighteningly unstoppable.

    Japan was actively planning the invasion of Australia in 1942.

    If Japan had taken Midway, they could have easily occupied Pearl Harbor and could have mounted raids on our West Coast.

    The Enemy
    The Japanese military killed about 5,964,000 people from 1937 to 1945.

    30 percent of the 320,000 POW’s held by Japanese died.

    The Japanese made slaves (force labor) out of millions of people in China and Korea.

    During WWII, the U.S. Government interned at least 11,000 persons of German ancestry.

    Japanese Americans were indeed disloyal. 20,000 Japanese Americans joined the Japanese war effort or Japanese army. One example is Tomoya Kawakita, an American citizen, interpreter and a POW guard for the Japanese army, who tortured to death American POW soldiers.

    Evidence of espionage was derived from a series of decrypted communications from the Japanese government. These messages referred to a network of Japanese Americans with military contractors.

    The loyalty of ethnic Japanese was doubted because most had been educated in Japan, where school curricula emphasized reverence for the Emperor. It was feared that this population might commit acts of espionage or sabotage for the Japanese military, which might lead to conquest of the USA.

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