Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Census Bureau and Japanese-American Internment-- Part 4: A threat to FDR

Under the March 1942 Second War Powers Act, which suspended the confidentiality protections for census data, the chief clerk had the authority to release census data to other agencies.  According to researchers, then the information released  was not illegal, but ethically questionable.

On August 4, 1943, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau requested the names and addresses of all individuals of Japanese ancestry living in Washington, D.C..  The request was to aid in a Secret Service investigation of threats made against President Roosevelt.

That request was triggered by an incident that had taken 17 months earlier when a Japanese-American man  being forced from Los Angeles to the Manzanar Internment Camp had said, "we ought to have enough guts to kill Roosevelt."

The man was later committed to a mental hospital for schizophrenia.

Information about 79 people in the D.C. area was released.  This request was filled in just seven days, very fast for a Washington bureaucracy.

The confidential provisions were reinstated in 1947.


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