Wednesday, August 05, 2009

GOP Senator: White House Encroaching on First Amendment

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
A Republican senator is calling for the White House to suspend a new project that asks members of the public to flag “fishy” claims about President Obama’s health care plans, arguing that it raises privacy concerns and will serve to chill free speech.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is sending a letter to the White House today asking the president to “cease this program immediately” -- or to explain how Americans’ privacy will be protected if e-mails are forwarded to the White House as requested.
“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,” Cornyn writes
“I can only imagine the level of justifiable outrage had your predecessor asked Americans to forward emails critical of his policies to the White House. I suspect that you would have been leading the charge in condemning such a program -- and I would have been at your side denouncing such heavy-handed government action.”
Yesterday, White House director of new media Macon Phillips wrote a blog posting urging readers to flag questionable claims about health care proposals.
“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 emails 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 email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.”
Cornyn specifically asks whether those who quote the president’s past statements -- such as his 2003 statement that he was a “proponent” of single-payer care -- qualifies as “disinformation.” He also asks what actions the White House would take against those engaging in “fishy” speech.
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