Unfortunately for me, I was one of the unlucky households that received an American Community Survey from the Census Bureau in March of this year. If you are unaware of how intrusive this questionnaire is or you have not received one and do not care because you -think- you will not be effected, you might want to re-think your position.
The American Community Survey is a 28 page questionnaire conducted by the Census Bureau that requires your mandatory compliance in giving up your 4th Amendment rights to a government agency. I was so disturbed by the questions that were asked in this survey that I wrote both of my Senators and asked that they intervene on my behalf to have me put on the “do not harass” list.
While Senator Coats declined to acknowledge my existence, Senator Lugar quickly wrote the Department of Commerce on my behalf. And in a letter, dated May 3, 2011, Angela M. Manso, Chief of the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs responded to Senator Lugar about my concerns.
NOTICE: I must preface this letter by stating that I am copying this response in verbatim with the exception of refutations which will appear in white.
Dear Senator Lugar:
This is in response to your letter of April 7,2011, on behalf of your constituent regarding the American Community Survey (ASC) being conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Statutory requirements protecting confidentiality preclude us from revealing or confirming the specific survey your constituent may be in. The Census Bureau conducts both voluntary and mandatory surveys. We understand concerns about confidentiality and privacy. We want to assure you that we respect respondent privacy and ensure that only authorized persons with work-related need-to-know view personal information.
The Census Bureau can assure and ensure my confidentiality all they want. In reality, they offer no “insurance” to compensate me for my losses if my identity is stolen. The only way they can “insure” my privacy is to “not collect it”.
Every question asked on the ACS has a specific federal application. We have enclosed a detailed explanation of why we ask respondents specific questions.
You are collecting statistical data for specific federal applications by asking people to do things such as assessing the value of their own property? How can their answer even be credible unless they are an accredited housing appraiser?
The ASC is part of the Decennial Census Program. It is a survey sent to a small percentage of our population on a rotating basis. The ACS collects detailed information on the characteristics of population and housing. These data previously were collected only in census years in conjunction with the decennial census. Since the ACS is conducted every year, rather than once every ten years, it provides more current data throughout the decade.
In other words, the Census Bureau has decided to violate only a small percentage of people’s 4th Amendment rights on annual basis instead of facing the ire of the entire American populace at once.
Data from the ACS contribute to providing an important picture of America. Accurate response to the ACS questionnaire is important. When read in conjunction with the most recently available decennial census data, the ACS tells us how we live as a Nation — our education, housing, jobs, and more.
If you can not guarantee the accuracy of a respondent then how does the ACS provide the federal government with accurate information? There are available sources to the general public that already have accurate sources of information about the housing market, education, and employment. For example, how about looking at the number of private sector employees instead of the people claiming jobless benefits for an accurate view?
Responding to Census Bureau surveys is about helping the national, state, and local officials make informed decisions with timely and accurate data. Just as people are required to respond to jury duty, get a driver’s license in order to drive, pay their taxes and report their income, they also have an obligation to respond to decennial census surveys. Without widespread participation, the Census Bureau can not produce quality data. That is why it is so important for a household to respond.
First, jury duty requires that a judge provide a sheriff with a writ of venire facias before a random jury pool is selected. Each person selected is sent a summons addressed to them by name. The ACS is not ordered by a court document and is addressed to “resident”.
Second, getting a driver’s license is required if you “choose” to drive. It does not represent a random invasion of privacy to the American constituency nor does it require that a person divulge personal information to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles unless they choose to drive. Further, the BMV requires proof of information accuracy and the ACS does not.
Third, the 16th Amendment is as flawed as the ACS in the fact that a federal department is relying on honest and accurate answers from it’s constituency. As a result, under-reporting income or cash exchanges for services rendered have allowed people such as criminals, illegals, waiters/waitresses, and even Congressional officials to lie about their earned income. I could write a book on the failures and abuses of the 16th Amendment by Washington bureaucrats and I suspect that the ACS will serve only to further divide people into more useless statistical data.
The United States Constitution stats that “”[An] Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by Law direct.”” Pursuant to this constitutional directive, Congress passed separate laws for each decennial census and specified the information to be collected. In 1954, Congress codified earlier census acts and all other statutes authorizing the decennial census as Title 13, United States Code (U.S.C). From the very first census act, Congress sought the collection of more information than just a headcount. Because the ACS is part of the Decennial Census Program, it is governed by the same laws as the census.
Just because Congress seeks more information from the population than a headcount does not mean that they are entitled to it, especially under penalty of law. U.S. Code or not, this is a direct violation of my 4th Amendment rights to be secure from unreasonable and unwarranted searches and seizures from government entities.
The current legal authority for collecting these data resides in Title 13, of the U.S.C, or the “Census Act”. The Census Act provides the Census Bureau with legal authority to conduct the decennial census and delegates broad discretionary authority to the Secretary of Commerce for determining the manner of conducting the census. This authority has been re-delegated by the Secretary to the Director of the Census Bureau.
Thank you for the history lesson. Perhaps the Secretary of Commerce made a grave error in re-delegating his broad authority to the Director of the Census Bureau.
Even though Congress has granted this broad discretionary authority, the questions asked in the Census and the ACS is determined by what data are needed to implement a vast array of federal programs.
This sentence gets right to the point of this survey and highlights, yet another reason why I have a problem with involving myself in this survey. The Census Bureau plans to distribute statistical data to various federal departments to spend tax money and implement programs, but there is no guarantee or proof that any of the data collected is accurate, thus it is an exercise in futility. How long will it take for people to realize that a little lie here and there will benefit them at the cost of other taxpayers?
Courts have routinely upheld their constitutionality of collecting census data, characterizing as unquestionable the power of Congress to require both an enumeration and the collection of statistics in the census. The courts have held that the Constitution, including the Fifth and Fourth Amendments, does not prohibit the gathering of other statistics in addition to the enumeration.
I am not disputing the Census Bureau’s legal right to ask questions outside of enumeration. What I am disputing is their legal authority to require an answer under penalty of law. Without a reasonable cause and a court ordered warrant, I have no obligation to answer the ACS in it’s current form.
An address may not be removed from the ACS sample as the validity of sample data would quickly deteriorate if selected households were exempted. However, we try to keep the number of households in the sample as small as possible in order to limit the cost of the survey and reduce the impact on respondents. An address probably will not be included in the ACS survey more than once in a five-year period.
Again, there is no verification that the data you are collecting from a respondent is accurate. This fact, in itself, deteriorates the ACS… and I suspect that the true reason for keeping the number of households in the sample as small as possible is because you do not want the ire of the entire United States constituency bearing down upon the Census Bureau and Congress for this blatant violation.
We can assure you that respondents’ confidentiality is protected. Title 13 requires the Census Bureau to keep all information about all respondents strictly confidential. Any Census Bureau employee who violates these provisions is subject to a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison sentence up to five years, or both.
There is that ‘assurance’ word again… let’s examine this shall we? If my confidentiality is violated by a government employee then the government gets $250,000, the government employee gets to pay the government and/or serve jail time, and I am left to fix my own credit and good name. It’s a win-win situation for the government and a lose-lose situation for me, the constituent. So stop with the assurances. You offer no insurance to ME and thus, you can not guarantee ME anything.
If you would like us to contact your constituent directly and address any additional concerns, we would be happy to do so. Please have a member of your staff contact our Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at (301)763-6100 to pursue this matter further.
No thank you Ms. Manso, I have been harassed enough already by Census Bureau agents and I can plainly see that the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs is only interested in helping the Census Bureau further their goal of violating my 4th Amendment rights for no reasonable or valid cause. I refuse to be bullied, harassed, or intimidated into completing the ACS. If the Census Bureau still demands my participation in the ACS, they will have to serve me with a search warrant from a judge that has my name on it that orders my compliance under penalty of law.