Judicial Watch • U.S. Census

U.S. Census Archives | Judicial Watch

In the latest of many scandals to rock the U.S. Census Bureau, a federal audit reveals that the agency’s vast computer system is not secure, risking droves of crucial data collected from the American public.  

This is incredibly alarming considering the bureau, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, gathers personal information about every individual who lives in the United States. The information, especially the decennial count of people living in the country, is used by the government to determine representation in Congress and federal funding for states.

Incredibly, the agency is not protecting the confidentiality of its data, according to the findings of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress. A report issued this week reveals that the Census Bureau is not effectively implementing information security controls to protect the computer system that holds all the data.

Controls designed to regulate who or what can access the Census Bureau’s systems are a major problem, the probe found, because the agency doesn’t bother identifying or authenticating users or restricting access to only those necessary to perform official duties. It also fails to implement appropriate physical security controls and doesn’t properly encrypt data in transmission and at rest.

“Until the bureau implements a complete and comprehensive security program, it will have limited assurance that its information and systems are being adequately protected against unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, disruption, or loss,” the report states. It goes on to point out the obvious: “A data breach could result in the public’s loss of confidence in the bureau and could affect its ability to collect census data.”

Americans may have lost confidence in the Census Bureau long ago considering its many transgressions. As far back as 2008, congressional investigators determined that the bureau had severe information technology shortcomings that made the 2010 census a high-risk operation. More than five years later nothing has changed and in fact, the Department of Commerce “expressed broad agreement” with the audit’s findings.

It seems the agency does little in the way of security. As the 2010 count approached, it actually hired violent criminals to enter the homes of unsuspecting residents to gather data. The astounding information was made public in a federal audit that revealed the bureau failed to adequately conduct mandatory background checks for tens of thousands of temporary census workers, clearing hundreds of violent criminals in the process.  

Around the same time, the Census Bureau’s deputy director (Preston Jay Waite) created a ruckus when he demanded federal agents cease immigration raids during the 2010 count so the government can get an accurate tally of people in the country illegally.

The unprecedented effort to reach illegal immigrants included spending $26 million to send Spanish-language questionnaires directly to homes for the first time in the decennial count’s history.  It marked the first time that the government sent to entire regions census forms in a language other than English.

Prior to that, the Census Bureau partnered with a fraud-infested community group (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN) when it was under criminal investigation nationwide. Congress eventually cut ACORN’s funding and the group claimed to shut down but has simply rebranded. Read about it in this special Judicial Watch report.





Judicial Watch Brief Supports Lawsuit Filed by State of Louisiana which Lost a Seat in the House of Representatives due to Census Bureau’s Unlawful Policy

 (Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the State of Louisiana challenging a current federal policy in which “unlawfully present aliens” were counted in the 2010 Census (Louisiana v. Bryson).

The government used these census numbers to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives and, as a result, the State of Louisiana lost a House seat to which it was entitled.  Louisiana is asking that the Supreme Court order the federal government to recalculate the 2010 apportionment of House seats based upon legal residents as the U.S. Constitution requires.

Judicial Watch’s brief was filed on January 13, 2012, in partnership with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in a lawsuit filed by the State of Louisiana against John Bryson, U.S. Secretary of Commerce; Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau; and Karen Lehman Hass, Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.  According to the brief:

Amici are concerned about the failure to enforce the nation’s immigration laws and the corrosive effect of this failure on our institutions and the rule of law.  Among the problems caused by this failure is a redistribution of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to States with large populations of unlawfully present aliens.

Amici respectfully submit that neither Article I Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment, or any other provision of the Constitution authorize or permit the inclusion of unlawfully present aliens in the apportionment process.  As a result, this case raises issues critical not just to Louisiana, but to every State, every American citizen, and our federal system of government.

Judicial Watch argues that due to this Census Bureau policy at least five states will lose House seats to which they are entitled.  For example, based upon the Census Bureau’s calculation, Louisiana is being allocated only six House seats, as opposed to the seven that it would have been apportioned, were it not for the inclusion of illegal aliens and “non-immigrant foreign nationals,” encompassing holders of student visas and guest workers.  The brief also notes that the “apportionment, in turn, determines the apportionment of electors in the Electoral College for the next three presidential elections.”

It is the contention of the State of Louisiana, Judicial Watch and AEF that “the policy of counting unlawfully present aliens in the nation’s decennial census is unconstitutional and undermines both our federal system of government and our democratic institutions,” and is the “direct result of the failure to enforce our nation’s immigration laws.”

“The U.S. Census Bureau’s policy of counting illegal aliens is unconstitutional and it distorts the democratic process,” said Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch.  “Moreover, the Obama administration’s hostility to enforcing illegal immigration laws will only make this problem worse as greater numbers of illegal aliens flood into the country.  Judicial Watch is pleased to join with the Allied Educational Foundation to file this amicus curiae brief in support of the State of Louisiana and the rule of law.  We hope the Supreme Court takes up this historic case and vindicates the right of American citizens to have full representation in Washington.”

In a classic case of government incompetence, a faulty computer system likely skewed 2010 census data just as federal auditors predicted nearly a year ago in a lengthy report to Congress.Because appropriate action was not taken to correct the problems, crucial census figures—used to determine seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars—may have been negatively affected. The“instability” and “inadequacies” in the defective system also cost taxpayers a lot of money, according to the Commerce Department Inspector General.In a previous probe, investigators from the same federal watchdog essentially predicted this would happen. In a May 2010 quarterly report to Congress, the Commerce Department Inspector General warned of an “unstable” information technology system with “frequent outages and reliability problems.” Besides suffering accuracy problems, the deficiencies had added $1.6 million in costs, according to that assessment.The bottom line was made clear to lawmakers; unless the computer system’s stability “improves substantially” costs and the “accuracy of its count are at risk.” Around the same time, a separate report issued by the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reiterated the assessment, stating that the system wasn’t stable and “did not function reliably” in tests.Evidently the warnings from two different watchdogs were not taken seriously and the decennial count was marred with problems, according to the latest quarterly census report issued to lawmakers by the Commerce IG. “Census was forced to work in what can best be described as crisis management mode, repairing technical problems and developing clerical workarounds and automated contingencies,” it says in part.The U.S. Census Bureau was also plagued by several other scandals last year, including a multi million-dollar advertising campaign catering to illegal immigrants and knowingly hiring a registered sex offender with a long criminal history to make home visits. The agency also came under fire for spending a chunk of change on paraphernalia sporting its official logo and refusing to disclose the tab.

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