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Census vows to fix fingerprinting process

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 6:24 p.m. ET

The Census Bureau, having just introduced fingerprinting of its employees for next year's Census, is now reviewing those procedures with the FBI, the agency's director said Wednesday.

A recent Government Accountability Office report estimated that the Census Bureau had hired more than 200 people with unclassifiable fingerprints and disqualifying criminal records. The employees were tasked with going street-by-street earlier this year to make sure that reported addresses do indeed exist.

In addition to the fingerprints, the Census Bureau had submitted each applicant's name and identification information for an FBI background check before hiring them, Census Director Robert Groves said.

"The safety of the U.S. public is of paramount interest to us. I’m committed to doing everything we can to achieve that," Groves told members of a House subcommittee reviewing 2010 Census operations.

Groves also noted, "As all of us age, our fingerprints get harder to read. The people who didn’t have read fingerprints tend to be older and tend to be female."

Republicans repeatedly questioned the Census chief on the GAO's findings, concerned that serious criminals possibly interacted with young children or senior citizens and obtained their personal information.

"I can't find anybody with a criminal record that I would feel comfortable giving that sensitive information to," Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said.

"I'm confident that the people employed by the Census Bureau have gone through this process and have been judged by not having a criminal history, under the process," Groves said.

The director also said he did not approve estimates cited in a recent USA Today report that predict 64 percent of American households would return their Census questionnaires next year, a 3 percent decline from 2000.

"I don’t know where that number came from. We’re estimating that number over and over again," Groves said.

A lower response rate would mean roughly 4 million more doors to knock on and at least $100 million in additional costs. Part of next year's anticipated declines are tied to the home foreclosure crisis, the displacement of Gulf Coast hurricane victims and fears that Census employees will ask about citizenship status (which by law they cannot).

Groves noted that response rates for every major public or private national survey continue to decline.

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 21, 2009; 5:01 PM ET
Categories:  Census, Congress  
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Comments

Not only do we imprison more people than any country in the world (an American is SEVEN times more likely to be in jail than a Western European or Canadian citizen), we also make sure they can't ever get a job when they get out. God bless America.

Posted by: DupontJay | October 21, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

It's also worth noting that many people with criminal records were falsely accused or erroneously arrested and subsequently released or acquitted. Apparently some lawmakers don't believe in rehabilitation but do believe in guilt by suspicion.

Of course their real objective is to suppress population counts in poor (Democratic) areas by excluding trusted local people with roots in the neighborhoods from working on the census.

First they scared people that ACORN might conduct the census, they are currently trying legislatively to scare immigrants to not participate, now they're busily trying to create a meme that marauding bands of savage criminals armed with clipboards and official ID badges will be set loose in neighborhoods to have their way with the populace.

What's the distinction between a fear-monger and a terrorist?

Posted by: satortist | October 22, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

There have been so many injustices reported with the advent of dna that it boggles the mind. You want to believe that the prosecutors and police are there for the people. What happened????? When was justice only for the people who could afford it? Where is honesty and government for the people? Am I so simple that I never left 1st grade? I have been called 7 (count them) times for jury duty. Only one was found guilty! We have lost our way. Washington is not showing us the way back and we need to find that way! It breaks my heart to see what these losers that we elect are doing to our
Republic. If they are in, vote them out!!!!

Posted by: nmiller2 | October 22, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm not giving that sensitive information to *anyone.* They can knock 'til the cows come home, but I'm not...

The purpose of the Census, as stated in the Constitution is for apportionment of Congress (and presumably state legislatures). So, it is to *count* (enumerate is the word used which means to count or to list, so possibly to list names in the household is kosher) but that is *all.*

Last time they asked if one had trouble taking a bath and other very irrelevant information. In 1940 they asked ethnicity and used that to round up Japanese-Americans for internment.

And, now I see ads on TV that tell you that you can research your family history via census information. So much for confidentiality!

The one thing that *should* be relevant but isn't is citizenship! To reapportion Congress it is *citizens* that should be counted, not visiting foreigners, and *certainly* not foreigners here illegally!

Posted by: alicelillie | October 25, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

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