FBI Agent Tries To
Obtain Census Worker
Credentials - A Federal Crime
By Daniel Perez - El Paso Times
The FBI and U.S. Census Bureau are investigating an incident at the El Paso census office in which an FBI agent tried to obtain census worker credentials.
The release of such credentials is a federal crime, census officials said, and the FBI agent was denied them.
"He wanted to use them for law enforcement purposes, and we flat coldly refused any help, said Steve Jost, associate director for communication for the bureau. He said a census worker convicted of releasing confidential information faces a fine up to $5,000 and five years in prison.
Jost said the El Paso incident is the only one of its kind for the 2000 census, and emphasizes the Census Bureau,s vow to keep records confidential. Census officials said confidentiality is especially important in the border region, where some residents may feel threatened by federal law enforcement officials.
El Pasoan Cesar Duron said that he,d be more leery of the census after he,d heard about the FBI incident.
"But I,ll still fill them out, he said.
Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt used the El Paso incident as an example of how his agency works to keep census information private.
"It didn,t affect census information, but we didn,t want to appear to be working with law enforcement, Prewitt said at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
El Paso FBI officials confirmed that an agent went to the El Paso census office to discuss possible investigative techniques, FBI spokesman Al Cruz said.
"He was advised by his direct supervisor that those were not the proper methods that we conduct our business, Cruz said. He didn,t identify the agent or discuss any disciplinary actions that might be taken.
David Hoffman, a Census Bureau spokesman, said no law enforcement agent could obtain credentials to be door-to-door counters. People who get badges have been hired, tested and trained by the bureau.
Westsider Carlos Maese said he,d prefer not to participate in the census because he doesn,t want anybody to know much about him.
"I don,t mind being counted, but I don,t want to give them more information, he said.
Census forms should be mailed out March 13, an El Paso census spokeswoman said.


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