Government Questions 50,000 Workers About ‘Good Ol’ Boy Roundup’
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government is questioning at least 50,000 employees to find out if they attended annual ``Good Ol’ Boy Roundups,″ described by some as racist gatherings that included past and present federal workers.
But workers’ rights groups are concerned that the queries, aimed primarily at the law enforcement agencies of the Treasury and Justice departments, are an invasion of privacy violating the First Amendment.
The government already has identified 33 employees who have attended the outings over the past five years, according to a month-old internal investigation called by Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin.
The investigation began after a 90-second videotape of one of the roundups surfaced, showing racist aspects such as the sale of T-shirts showing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in gun-sight cross hairs, and a rascist banner stretched across an entry point. Federal investigators are still trying to determine if the video is legitimate.
As part of the wide-ranging probe, Treasury Inspector General Valerie Lau this month distributed a memo requesting that ``all enforcement bureau employees″ respond to three questions seeking whether they were ever invited to or attended the roundups, held in southeastern Tennessee.
``There have been a number of very serious allegations made,″ Lau told The Washington Post. ``The only way to deal with them is to find out the truth, to find out from people who attended what actually happened.″
But Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, compared the questioning to Cold War efforts to investigate possible Communist ties _ often resulting in blacklisting and ruined careers.
``... Even though the beliefs reportedly expressed at this event were reprehensible to most of us, this does not excuse this kind of official inquiry into associations,″ Glasser said.