Saturday, November 1, 2008

Census Cooperated with DHS

Yesterday, Kevin Johnson reported on the profiling of Muslims by DHS in 2004. Karen A. Woodrow-Lafield, Ph.D. ( has this additional information:

In 2004, The New York Times (July 30) reported that in December 2003 the Census Bureau provided the Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security a set of detailed Census 2000 tabulations for Arab Americans by country of origin (Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Palestinian, Syrian, and two general categories, Arab/Arabic or Other Arab) for selected zip codes.  The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research center focused on civil liberties, disclosed the data sharing to the New York Times after a Freedom of Information Act request, and there was subsequently considerable concern among parties interested in census issues.  It was only in 2000 that the bureau had issued a formal apology for having issued statistical data used for Japanese-Americans’ internment in WWII.

This type of data sharing with another federal agency is entirely legal, but experts criticized the Census Bureau for not ascertaining that generally available statistical data were insufficient for the specific purposes for which DHS made the detailed data request.  The DHS spokesperson indicated the data were to be used for non-law enforcement purposes to identify airports for educating Arab travelers about U.S. laws and regulations.  This seems rather unlikely given that law enforcement/ border patrol constitutes so much of the CBP mission.

In addition, the Census Bureau provided tabulations on a non-fee basis which meant that the service was not subject to a full review by census officials with attention to guidelines for preparing special tabulations for outside agencies and groups that include considerations about how the data sharing will affect the bureau’s reputation, whether the data deal with “sensitive” populations, and whether the data is being requested by law enforcement agencies.

Reading about this ICE Operation Front Line I in October 2004, although CBP and ICE may have been proceeding independently in different directions in that one part of a federal agency is often unaware of another’s activities, and this might seem especially likely in that first chaotic year of DHS’ existence, I nevertheless am wondering whether the census tabulations for Arab-Americans were not used in some way to target residential areas of Arab-Americans for greater scrutiny. After all, the DHS data bases themselves should have been far more adequate for the stated purpose of obtaining the census tabulations—educational communications in airports with travelers to and from Arab countries.  We do not know the nature, extent, or legitimacy of data mining analyses involved with ICE headquarters’ analyses of their databases, National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), Student Exchange Information System (SEVIS), United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Information System (US-VISIT).  Note that ICE has not responded to an FOIA request filed in 2006 about use of NSEERS in immigration enforcement efforts.


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Who cares?

Posted by: Peter Chan | Nov 2, 2008 8:20:14 AM

Peter, if you don't care, why don't you bug off? Trolling is really a shameful practice.

Posted by: Matt Lister | Nov 4, 2008 7:20:02 AM

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