Published August 05, 2009
The White House is under fire for a blog post asking supporters to send "fishy" information received through rumors, chain e-mails and casual conversations to a White House e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservatives have pounced on the request, accusing the White House of acting Orwellian.
"If you get an e-mail from your neighbor and it doesn't sound right, send it to the White House?"said Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo. " People, I think all across America are going to say is this 1984? What is happening here? Is big brother watching?"
Radio host Rush Limbaugh accused the White House of using heavy-handed tactics.
"They're looking for tattletales,"he said. "They're looking for snitches. They're looking for informants."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, charged the White House with compiling an "enemies list."In a letter to the president, Cornyn urged Obama to provide Congress with more details on what the White House plans to do with anyone reported for "fishy"speech.
"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,"he wrote.
"You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program. As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights,"he wrote.
The controversy is part of a larger debate on health care reform that has led Democrats to portray town hall audiences protesting a Democratic-sponsored bill as angry mobs duped into hostile actions by special interest groups.
The Democratic National Committee released a Web video and e-mail on Wednesday blasting opponents of the 10-year, $1 trillion plan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said lawmakers will continue to press for reform "in spite of the loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town hall meetings."
Republicans say counter that lawmakers have a responsibility to listen to constituents and their concerns.