President Obama’s Report Your Neighbor Program: The Executive Branch Has Your Info Forever

Byron York has an excellent piece up at The Examiner about the deal. Here’s the program:

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 [email protected]

Well, that caused serious outcry and some amusing responses, too. Americans have fun with fascism! There is a serious side, though. This information, must, by law, be kept forever. York says:

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.

“So the White House, whether by design or accident, has requested information from the public that will become ‘records’ under the Presidential Records Act, yet would be impermissible for any government to otherwise collect under the Privacy Act,” writes one Judiciary Committee source. “Where were the lawyers in all of this? What is their legal basis for authorizing the collection of these records?”

Read the whole thing. So, the White House, the President of the United States, is asking you to inform on a friend even in “casual conversation“.

And, it’s likely illegal. Says Erick Erickson:

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.”

The White House may take the position that certain of its offices aren’t subject to the Privacy Act (that is a longstanding Office of Legal Counsel position, see here), but most Presidents instruct their staffs to comply. This will be a the first significant time the White House has ignored the Privacy Act and may open President Obama up to litigation.

This is another example of the Obama administration ignoring long time precedent when it is no longer convenient for them. And ignoring this precedent lets them collect data on and potential harass individual American citizens.

The legality is troubling. The information is troubling. Perhaps the most distressing element is the knee-jerk reaction the President has to disagreement with his policies. He doesn’t view disagreement as legitimate. In fact, President Obama assumes that all disagreement is disinformation.

This seems like another revealing way that President Obama has statist tendencies.

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