Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, today demanded that President Obama either halt a program already widely known in the blogosphere as the “snitch” program or define how he will protect the privacy of those who send or are the subject of e-mails to the firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address.
The White House announced the program only a day earlier, pleading with people around the nation to forward to the White House e-mail address anything they might see “about health insurance reform that seems fishy.”
“I am not aware of any precedent for a president asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White house for pure political speech that is deemed ‘fishy’ or otherwise inimical to the White House’s political interests,” the Texas senator wrote in a letter today to Obama.
“By requesting that citizens send ‘fishy’ e-mails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, e-mail addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported… You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection system.”
Obama, of course, utilized the Internet extensively during his 2008 campaign for the White House, collecting millions of dollar in donations through his online donation structure, and even now organizing political events through his e-mail list.
The White House announcement cited “opponents” of health care reform who may “find the truth a little inconvenient.”
“Scary chain e-mails and videos are starting to percolate on the Internet, breathlessly claiming, for example, to ‘uncover’ the truth about the president’s health insurance reform positions,” the website says.
“There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain e-mails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an e-mail or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com,” the White House instructed.
Cornyn continued, “I urge you to cease this program immediately. At the very least, I request that you detail to Congress and the public the protocols that your White House is following to purge the names, e-mail addresses, IP addresses, and identities of citizens who are reported to have engaged in ‘fishy’ speech.”
He said specifically the president needs to address how he intends to use the identities of those who are reported to him for having “engaged in ‘fishy’ speech.”
Further, Obama should explain how he intends “to notify citizens who have been reported for ‘fishy’ speech.”
Bloggers and readers were livid.
Wrote one observer to WND, “In my life I never thought I’d see this happen in America. What are they going to do with the information they get?? Pure terrorism.”
Added another, “Why wait for a snitch to turn your name in, when you do it yourself and save them the trouble. It only makes sense.”
A third reader simply sent a link to an online history resource that cited the use of informants during the prelude to World War II.
The e-mail quoted, “An ominous new development within the HJ was the appearance of HJ-Streifendienst (Patrol Force) units functioning as internal political police, maintaining order at meetings, ferreting out disloyal members, and denouncing anyone who criticized Hitler or Nazism including, in a few cases, their own parents.
“One case involved a teenaged HJ member named Walter Hess who turned in his father for calling Hitler a crazed Nazi maniac. His father was then hauled off to Dachau under Schutzhaft (protective custody). For setting such an example, Hess was promoted to a higher rank within the HJ.”
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said, “I am shocked and dismayed that Barack Obama’s White House is now monitoring e-mail traffic nationwide if it opposes his government takeover of health care.”
Staver’s organization already has analyzed the health care plan and confirmed it contains health care rationing, a national health ID card complete with government access to personal bank accounts, government decisions on what health care benefits are available and mandatory taxpayer support for abortion.
At RightSoup, a blogger wondered, “Now why do they need to see e-mails about someone’s opinions? And … are they too lazy to Google their own crap to see what web writers are saying about it? … Yes, they are. They want you to be a good little Red Shirt and turn those dissident terrorists in. ‘Cuz Obama is real busy right now running this country into the ditch.”
A forum participant on the site said, “This stuff could not be made up. It is a sign of a VERY SICK administration.”
Radio talk show icon Rush Limbaugh chastised the president.
“Well, I would hate to see what they’re going to get now at firstname.lastname@example.org. I wonder what kind of e-mails they’re going to get now. They’re looking for tattletales; they’re looking for snitches; they’re looking for informants; they want their groupies to tattle on you if you happen to be telling the truth about what’s in the health care plan. The White House has, as yet, offered no explanation of what it is they plan to do with the tips on policy opposition they hope to receive from citizen informers.”
Cornyn said he also wanted to know “what action you intend to take against citizens who have been reported.”
Further, “Do your own past statements qualify as ‘disinformation’? For example, is it ‘disinformation’ to note that in 2003 you said, ‘I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care plan’?” Cornyn wrote.
The Liberty Counsel analysis said under Section 1308, the government will dictate marriage and family therapy as well as mental health services, including the definitions of those treatments, and under Section 1401, a Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research would be set up, creating a bureaucracy through which federal employees could determine whether any treatment is “comparatively effective” for any individual based on the cost, likely success and probably the years left in life.
It also, according to Staver, “covers abortions, transsexual surgeries, encourages counseling as to how many children you should have, whether you should increase the interval between children.”
The plan would allow, in Section 1401, for the collection of information about individuals’ health records, both “published and unpublished,” and recommend policies for public access to data.
The Liberty Counsel analysis also pointed out the government would be allowed to ration health care procedures, prevent “judicial review” of its decision, tell doctors what income they can have, impose new taxes for anyone not having an “acceptable” coverage, regulate whether seniors can have wheelchairs, penalize hospitals or doctors whose patients require “readmission,” prevent the expansion of hospitals and set up procedures for home visits by health care analysts.
Under Section 440, Liberty Counsel said, the government “will design and implement Home Visitation Program for families with young kids and families that expect children.” And Section 194 provides for a program that has the government “coming into your house and teaching/telling you how to parent,” LC said.