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‘Government is not spying’

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Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 12:30 am

I cannot sit silently after reading “Census Calling on Kaua`i” (April 29, 2013).  

The article is counter to my personal experience and I feel compelled to share my experience with you.  

In the article the statements made by Mr. Gene Henry of the American Community Survey are counter to fact. This is not a letter representing one party or another. It is not an attempt to sway you to opt out of the American Community Survey. It is simply a recitation of fact.

In 2010 my wife and I received a letter demanding that we participate in the ACS. The notification stated that compliance was mandated by law, and that failure to comply could result in my arrest and imprisonment. The questions asked were extremely intrusive, and I responded that I was opting out of the program.  

My personal belief is that this “survey” is an intrusion that goes well beyond information that a citizen should be required to provide. Questions regarding personal income, personal habits, personal health and related subjects are subjects that I choose not to share with anyone.   

As Mark Twain famously observed, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.” In my opinion the government does not deserve to demand the information required by the ACS.

When I notified ACS that I chose to opt out we initially received letters notifying us that this was not an option.  My continued refusal resulted in a number of phone calls threatening reprisal if we did not participate.  

My wife received an unannounced visit by an ACS representative demanding that she answer the questions in the survey. She wisely suggested that the ACS contact me. The following is a direct quote of my letter of formal complaint to the U.S. Census Bureau following my unannounced visit from Mr. Henry, the field representative quoted in your article. He is describing me:

“I am a combat veteran and I see that Flag up there, but I don’t see an American in front of me.” 18 DEC 2010, 1320hrs  

Your Field Representative Henry made this statement about me in front of my wife at our home in Hanapepe, Hawai`i. As she can attest, up to that point I was polite to Mr. Henry.  He arrived unannounced and stopped us as we were entering our home carrying plate lunch.  

I informed Mr. Henry that we were going in to eat, but he could come back in 30 minutes and I would speak with him. He insisted that he would require that I respond to the American Community Survey. His demeanor was combative, arrogant and demeaning.  I stated that as a matter of principle I chose to opt out of the survey.  

Mr. Henry stated that he could view our IRS records and could turn us over to the Department of Justice. At that time he indicated the U.S. Flag that flies from my home every day, and made the offensive quote above.  

I am a retired U.S. Navy Commander who flew Huey gunships in Vietnam in support of the “brown water” Navy, the U.S. Army and the SEALS.  For my service I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, 23 Air Medals and two Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry.  I went on to complete 21 years of service to my country as a Naval Aviator and U.S. Navy Test Pilot.  When Mr. Henry made this most offensive comment I ordered him off my property. Please see to it that he never returns.

Perhaps the Department of Commerce feels that its representatives can treat a U.S. citizen in this manner. I prefer to think not. I want to know how your Department will act to discipline Mr. Henry for his callous treatment of a citizen while serving as your representative.”

I received a timely response from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau apologizing for the conduct of Mr. Henry and stating that I would not again be approached to participate in the ACS. It is now apparent that Mr. Henry was not disciplined but continues in his position to (potentially) strong-arm the people of Kaua‘i into compliance.  

For those of you who feel as strongly as I do I suggest you Google American Community Survey. You will learn that the threats of arrest and imprisonment for failure to participate are hollow threats.  

I encourage every member of our community to examine their own beliefs and determine whether you want to share this information with the government. To paraphrase Mr. Twain, I don’t think that in this case the government deserves it.

• Dennis Rowley is a Kaua‘i resident that resides in Hanapepe. If you’d like to summit a guest commentary, email editor@thegardenisland.com

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