As Jeff noted yesterday, the White House is asking individuals to report misinformation to the White House on healthcare.
Specifically, the White House said
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 email@example.com.
Emphasis added. Given the near certainty that no one will be stripping from emails the names of the people forwarding on the information, the White House is most likely engaged in unlawful activity.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org email address is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. Some enterprising legislator should introduce legislation to make it subject to the FOIA.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, accusing the White House of compiling an “enemies list,” has asked President Barack Obama to stop an effort to collect “fishy” information Americans see about a health care overhaul.