“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) have filed suit in the District of Columbia Federal Court against the White House Over the “Sounds fishy, spy on your neighbor and send an email” program which drew fire last month.
Named in the suit are The Executive Office of the President, The White House Office of Health Care Reform and its director Nancy-Ann Deparle, and Macon Phillips, White House Director of New Media
According to the complaint filed by the AAPS and CURE Lawyers:
“1. AAPS and CURE bring this action to enforce the First Amendment right to free Speech and the Privacy Act‘s right to privacy against efforts by defendants Executive Office of The President (“EOP”), White House Office of Health Care Reform (“WHOHR”), Nancy-Ann Deparle in her official capacity as WHOHR’s Director, Macon Phillips in his official capacity as White House Director of New Media, and others acting in concert (collectively, hereinafter “Defendants”) unlawfully to collect information on political and other noncommercial speech by And on behalf of AAPS, CURE, and their members, officers, and employees (collectively, Hereinafter “Plaintiffs”) and thereby to suppress speech protected by the First Amendment.
2. As set forth more fully in Paragraph 67, AAPS and CURE seek the following Injunctive and declaratory relief:
(a) Declare that the First Amendment and the Privacy Act prohibit and Preempt the Defendants’ efforts to collect and maintain information on protected speech;
(b) Enjoin the Defendants’ continued collection of such information via the Flag@whitehouse.gov email address and the linked “reality check” internet reporting Form (collectively, hereinafter “email@example.com”);
(c) Order the Defendants to expunge all prohibited information obtained via Flag@whitehouse.gov from their records; and
(d) Order the Defendants to remove the solicitation for citizens to report on Others’ “fishy” speech from whitehouse.gov and enjoin their soliciting or collecting Information (including email addresses) on third parties’ political speech.”
The plaintiff’s claim the purpose of the “fishy” program was to stifle free speech and opposition to his health care program. The other concert was the collecting of information about political opposition.
The lawsuit was prompted by the White House solicitation for the public to report any fishy comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although the White House slightly revised its data collection procedure last week, the email address still exists, the illegal activity continues, and is part of an unlawful pattern and practice to collect and maintain information on the exercise of free speech, which continues in violation of the Privacy Act and First Amendment even if the Defendants terminate a particular information-collection component due to negative publicity.
The lawsuit outlines how the White House has employed a form of bait-and-switch tactic of accusing the Plaintiffs and other opponents of spreading misinformation about the Administration’s goals for health care reform, and thereby refusing to come clean about its real agenda.
The lawsuit outlines that the White House knew that the data collection would chill free speech, and in fact, intended to do just that:
“43. As part of their effort to advance the White House healthcare reform agenda, Defendants have accused opponents (including Plaintiffs) of spreading misinformation on issues such as whether (a) health reform would provide public funding for abortions, (b) put death panels in place to deny care to the elderly or infirm, (c) amount to a government takeover of healthcare, and (d) increase healthcare costs..the Defendants and the administration have spread misinformation, semantics, and disinformation on these topics..
45. By denying and continuing to deny that healthcare reform legislation includes death panels that make individual life-or-death decisions on the elderly or infirm, the Defendants and the current administration have ignored and implicitly denied and continue to ignore and implicitly to deny both that their healthcare reform agenda involves rationing healthcare”
This is not the first time that the AAPS has filed a lawsuit against a government-run healthcare program; they won a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and friends for covering up information during the setting up of the Hillary Care program.
“It seems that some government officials never learn that the cover-up can be worse than the underlying conduct,” writes Judge Lamberth. “Most shocking to this court, and deeply disappointing, is that the Department of Justice would participate in such conduct…this type of conduct is reprehensible, and the government must be held accountable for it.”
“This is a sad victory,” said AAPS spokeswoman Kathryn Serkes. “We’re relieved and pleased to have our claims of an illegal cover-up corroborated. But it’s a shame that the victory comes at a cost to the American people. If the White House and Department of Justice had told the truth from the beginning, this prolonged and expensive litigation could have been avoided.”
“It’s too bad that those guilty of this misconduct don’t have to pay the bill-instead of the taxpayers. Perhaps now that they’ve finally been accountable for at least one of their scandals, they’ll learn their lesson-a cover-up is a cover-up whether it is in the basement files of the White House or in a federal courtroom.”
If you are waiting for the ACLU to join in the lawsuit, do not hold your breath. This organization whose purpose is to protect our civil liberties does not believe in protecting our liberty from liberal causes. Maybe if someone claimed the “email@example.com” email mentioned a deity, but until then, now way.
It seems as if President Obama has made quashing free speech a primary objective. On top of this “fishy” program there is his “diversity” CZAR at the FCC who is threatening to price conservative radio out of business. And there is that bill going through the Senate promising to give the President carte’ blanche to shut off the internet when he decides we are having a cyber-emergency. If all of this does not run shivers down your spine, it would be difficult to figure out what will.
Sammy Benoit is the Editor of the Political Website The Lid
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