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My Work in Congress, U.S. Census Issues

Letter to Comptroller General David Walker

August 9, 2000

The Honorable David M. Walker
Comptroller General of the United States
U.S. General Accounting Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548

Dear General Walker:

I am writing to you regarding a recent letter sent to Census Director Prewitt by your staff dated July 20, 2000 which appears to propose an unprecedented action by the General Accounting Office.

The letter requests "copies of any and all correspondence, memoranda, e-mail messages, and any other form of communication between officers or employees of the Census Bureau - in both its headquarters or field offices - concerning GAO's or any oversight body's access to bureau data and individuals."

Although the letter states that this is a request made on behalf of myself and the Chairman of the Census Subcommittee, I wish to make clear that I did not and do not support such a sweeping and unprecedented investigation. The prospect that every email generated by Census Bureau employees should be subject to review is at the very least extremely disturbing, not to mention expensive and time consuming. I do not believe that the single incident and email from a Census Bureau area manager warrant such an action. I have had the opportunity to talk to the staffer who sent the email and I am personally convinced that the allegation that he was attempting to hide information is unfounded.

I have also had the opportunity to speak to you directly and to other GAO staff who have all said that they have not and do not currently have any problems with access to information at the Census Bureau. Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with the Inspector General and his staff who also reported to me that he and his staff have not and do not currently have any problems with access to census information.

As you know, I was the first person to ask GAO to look into the Chairman's allegation because of its serious nature and because I have faith in the GAO's history of prudence, impartiality, and objectivity. Given the heightened concerns regarding privacy in the modern age, I urge you to personally review this issue and to severely limit the scope of this proposed review and not go forward with this unprecedented invasion of privacy.


Member of Congress

cc: Chairman Dan Miller

The Honorable Johnnie Frazier

The Honorable J. Kenneth Blackwell

Mr. Gilbert Casellas

Mr. J. Christopher Mihm, GAO

Ms. Janet Norwood

Director Kenneth Prewitt

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