LIFE WITH BIG BROTHER
Obama 'snitch' program put on notice
Law firm warns: White House raising 'significant First Amendment concerns'


A nonprofit public interest law firm is demanding that the White House withdraw a citizen "snitch" program that seeks to collect information on those who make "fishy" statements about President Obama's HealthCare "reform."

As WND reported, the White House announced the program Aug. 4, pleading with people around the nation to forward to a White House e-mail address anything they see "about health insurance reform that seems fishy."

In his post on the White House blog, Macon Phillips, White House director of new media, wrote:

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. 

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 flag@whitehouse.gov.


The American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, sent a letter to President Obama today, warning, "This citizen reporting program raises significant First Amendment concerns.

"For what purpose is this information being gathered?" the ACLJ letter asked. "To whom will the information be disseminated? Is the intent of the program to stifle free and open debate on the serious policy issues raised by health care reform? Will you flag media outlets that publish articles critical of your health care plan?"

Sign the WND petition challenging the Obama administration to stop its attacks on free speech and the nation's health care system.

The letter, signed by ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and Director and Senior Counsel Colby May, noted the "flag" in the White House e-mail address and asked the question on many people's minds: "For what purpose are these individuals being 'flagged'?"

Sekulow and May reminded Obama of his Jan 21, 2009, memorandum to heads of executive departments and agencies on "Transparency and Open Government." The memo stated that Obama's administration is "committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system if transparency, public participation and collaboration."

However, the ACLJ attorneys warned the president, "Creating a program that requests individuals to report on their neighbors, co-workers, family members and friends who express personal opinions in opposition to your policy choices is not the way to encourage openness and transparency. It is tantamount to policing ideas. Such a program will only stifle free and open debate among the citizens of this great country."

The ACLJ noted that the program has already "induced confusion and uncertainty among the American people as to its purpose and underlying goals" and may appear reminiscent of the FBI's secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of political beliefs that took place several decades ago.

Sekulow and May continued, "Such confusion could lead some into wondering if this is a return to COINTELPRO (the FBI'S Counter Intelligence Program directed against Martin Luther King Jr.), something we are sure you do not intend. We respectfully request that the program be withdrawn."


Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas

An attorney for Red State noted that the White House's actions may be in violation of current U.S. law:

"According to 5 U.S.C. § 552a, United States agencies, including the Executive Office of the President shall, 'maintain no record 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 or unless pertinent to and within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity.'"

Attorney Eric Erickson noted, "This will be the first significant time the White House has ignored the Privacy Act and may open President Obama up to litigation."

As WND reported, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, demanded that Obama either halt the program or define how he will protect the privacy of those who send or are the subject of e-mails to the White House.

"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 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."

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."

Radio talk show icon Rush Limbaugh also chastised the president.

"Well, I would hate to see what they're going to get now at flag@whitehouse.gov. 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."

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."

Finally, another reader reported his own concerns about "fishy" behavior to the president:

I am responding to your inquiry regarding fishy information. Please allow me a moment to explain what I deem to be fishy. The fact that you will not release your records is highly fishy and suspicious. What do you have to hide?

You want to collect an e-mail of someone who reads and does check into things? Then please take mine and put it on your list as I am not one of the uninformed or extremists that you make people who have a voice out to be. We are hard-working Americans who are tired of politicians spending our money recklessly and wastefully. Wake up Mr. President! America isn't happy about your health care bill. Nor are we happy how you are handling our money.