AUGUST 18, 2009
Public outrage has forced the White House to shut down a highly controversial web account set up for Americans to report what the Obama Administration deems “fishy” speech from those who oppose the president’s policies.
The now defunct electronic tip box (firstname.lastname@example.org) was created earlier this month to collect information on opponents of Obama’s health care overhaul. The White House claims there is a lot of disinformation on the subject and the rumors often travel “below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation.” Since the White House can’t possibly keep track of all of them, it recruited the public to report anything “fishy” regarding health insurance reform.
This ignited furor among lawmakers and privacy rights groups that logically questioned how the data would be used by the White House. Obama immediately denied that his administration was keeping or collecting names of adversaries but rather clearing up confusion surrounding health care reform.
Two veteran lawmakers—a U.S. Senator and a ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee—wrote the president hard-hitting letters about the snitching operation. The first reminded Obama about free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment and the other asked the president to ensure the e-mails will not be used for political purposes.
Obama has long insisted that no one receives unsolicited emails from the White House although this week officials reversed that story and blamed “outside political groups” for tens of thousands of unwanted messages. The administration’s online director said independent groups signed up their members to receive White House updates unbeknownst to the unsuspecting recipients.
It seems Obama wants to keep a close eye on all Americans. Last week he quietly proposed reversing a longtime federal policy banning the use of web technologies to track and compile the personal information of those who visit U.S. government internet sites. Nixing the 9-year-old rule poses a serious threat to Americans’ personal information, according to the Obama cheerleading squad better known as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
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