On Monday, White House director of new media Macon Phillips posted a note on the White House web site complaining of “disinformation about health insurance reform.” “These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation,” Phillips wrote. “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 email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Imagine the outrage if GWB had that request put on the White House website. But never mind that: we’re talking about a White House database of political opponents that will be both secret and permanent:
Senate Judiciary Committee lawyers studying the proposal say that although there is no absolutely settled law on the matter, the White House plan is likely not covered by the Privacy Act, which prohibits government agencies from keeping any records “describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment unless expressly authorized by statute or by the individual about whom the record is maintained.” Therefore, it appears the White House can legally keep records of the emails and other communications it receives in response to Phillips’ request.
Those lawyers also point out that the White House is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, which means it would not have to release any information on the plan to members of the public who make a request.
In addition, the lawyers say the collected emails likely will be covered by the Presidential Records Act, which requires the White House to preserve and maintain its records for permanent storage in a government database. Phillips’ request suggests that whatever information the White House receives on health-care reform “disinformation” will be used to further the goal of passing a national health-care makeover, which is, of course, one of the president’s main policy initiatives. Such material, and whatever the White House does with it, would qualify as presidential records. Only after more than a decade would such records be publicly available.
John Cornyn is questioning the database:
Cornyn, who also leads the Republican effort to expand its 40-seat minority in the Senate, asked how the White House would use the information collected, what actions if any the White House would take against citizens linked to “fishy” claims, and whether they would be told about being flagged.
This is about stifling simple political dissent.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs disavows any knowledge of the WH website actions,
The blog and tips email was because, Gibbs said, “we have seen, and as I’ve discussed from this podium, a lot of misinformation around health care reform. Some of it I think spread purposely. We have used on many occasions the Web site to debunk things that are simply not true. We ask people if they have questions about health care reform and about what they’re hearing about its affects on them, to let us know and we’d provide them information to show that that wasn’t true.”
Continued Gibbs: “but nobody is collecting names.”
Meanwhile, during the AARP meeting on healthcare,
a surprise comment from the audience: the AARP man states,
“AARP does not endorse any legislation. AARP does not endorse any member of Congress,”
when a member of the audience interjects,
“But Danny Glover is an AARP spokesperson, and he’s shaking hands with Hugo Chavez. And he’s your spokesperson.”
I wonder if Barbara Boxer would consider the guy who said it as being overdressed.
UPDATE, Friday 7 August
AARP – Assuming All Roll Pliantly