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By Ed O'Keefe

The Eye took several questions earlier Tuesday on political and government news, especially on the recent apparent killing of a Census Bureau employee. Read the full chat here and review some of the highlights below:

Census Worker Murder: OK, I'm upset about your reporting on this. A Census worker is found hanged, naked, bound and gagged with his work ID card taped to his head and the word "FED" written on his chest in magic marker. And your report on this says that it is unclear whether his employment played a role in his death. What more do you need to know ? Are you afraid of enfuriating the right with basic reporting ?

Ed O'Keefe: No we're not afraid, we're being good reporters: We're working on the guidance and statements from state and federal officials who continue to insist they're conducting a death investigation and have no new information. Certainly this does not appear to have been an accident or suicide, but until we know for certain we can't say definitively.

The eyewitness accounts and statements by the coroner definitely suggest -- but only suggest -- that Bill Sparkman was targeted because of his federal employment. But what if "Fed" meant something else to Mr. Sparkman or his attackers? What if "Fed" wasn't what they meant to write?

Suggestions alone are not enough to outright say he was targeted because of his job. We work with facts, not suggestions.


Blacksburg, Va.:
Does the Right-Wing have so shame? Was Census Worker Bill Sparkman A Child Predator?

Ed O'Keefe: Note what this author says at the outset of his piece:

"I have no idea what happened, but from the reporting I've seen, neither does anyone else."

This is why -- in regards to the previous question -- we cannot say he was targeted because of his federal employment or for any other reason.


Washington, D.C.: To me, it doesn't add up that that poor Bill Sparkman was killed as a drug cover-up. I mean if you're covering up drugs, wouldn't you also try to cover-up a murder? I mean if his killer(s) had hide his body anywhere else in the remote Daniel Boone National Forest, his corpse wouldn't have been discovered for months or years, if ever. Instead the killer(s) string him up in a tree is a cemetery which is still maintained and people are still buried in, so it was only a matter of days before Mr. Sparkman's remains were discovered. Plus the killer(s) went out of their way to let us and potential jury know that they knew Mr. Sparkman was a federal employee, which is odd, since knowing you killed a federal employee makes it a federal case?

Ed O'Keefe: Please remember that neither local, state, nor federal law enforcement officials have confirmed the eyewitness account. All they will say is that his feet were touching the ground when he was found with a rope around his neck and tied to a tree.

So again: We don't know if he was targeted because of his federal job, we don't know if it had something to do with drugs, we don't know if it was because he might have been a child abuser.

Stay tuned for facts folks, and avoid the speculation.


Seattle, Wash.: Are there any updates from the tragic Federal Census worker, Bill Sparkman, from London, Kentucky.

I don't understand how law enforcement won't comment, yet with a breath say that is may be drug related. And they won't officially even call it a homicide.

To this nonsense that backwood folks consider a census worker the same as a D.E.A. agent. I grew up in rural Arkansas and even the most in-breed, uneducated, unwordly hicks I knew there would know the difference, especially if they were involved in drug trade.

Ed O'Keefe: There is nothing new that I know of as of this morning, but the story can change hour-by-hour. State and federal folks have been very tight-lipped about this case, save for the already-mentioned theories about it being potentially drug-related.

It seems in my conversations with local and state officials that they're a bit overwhelmed by the attention and doing their best to build a solid case before coming forward. And they know that if a potential crime was driven by anti-government sentiments then the situation will garner even more attention.


Evanston, Ill.: To be honest, if I were working in airport security, I'd target Jason Chaffetz for sure. I think the more he whines about it, the worst it looks for him. (Related story: Was Utah Lawmaker Targeted by Airport Security?)

Ed O'Keefe: This is an interesting story (thanks for calling it out!).

As I wrote last week, we hear about whiny, impatient or "don't you know who I am?!" lawmakers in airport security lines all the time, but in this case the Utah freshman Republican congressman thinks security guards might have called him out for his opposition to their collective bargaining rights and a bill he sponsored that bans the use of body imaging machines as the primary airport security tool.

He says he will not press the case further, and only raised the issue when reports surfaced that he was allegedly misbehaving or throwing his weight around at the airport.


Gainesville, Fla.: "local and state officials" are overwhelmed by the national attention?

I thought the FBI was now involved?

Ed O'Keefe: Yes they are, and they're used to national press queries. But call up Clark County officials and tell them you're with The Washington Post, and they're stunned by the national attention.

Read the full Tuesday edition of The Post Politics Hour here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | September 29, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
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