Thursday, August 13, 2009


As an American citizen, I have to admit what you're about to read concerns me. Thanks to the ACLU, an organization with which I have had some problems in the past, it has been addressed. I think. I guess as citizens we should be very alert these days.

In no way should my concern be seen as anything relating to WHO the President is that would do what this letter addresses. I am committed to praying for Barack Obama as my President and am grateful that the historic election of an African-American has taken place. I would have personally preferred either Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell as I agree with their conservative principles more closely than I do with the current President, but He is my President because he was elected.

That all being said, what follows could be problematic to our form of government were it to go unchecked.


Jay A. Sekulow*Chief Counsel

Colby M. May **Director and Senior Counsel

August 6, 2009

President Barack Obama,

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

I write to request that you withdraw and rescind the citizen reporting program set forth in an August 4, 2009, blog post by Macon Phillips, the White House Director of New Media.

In his post on the White House Blog, Mr. Phillips stated that “[s]cary chain emails and videos are starting to percolate on the Internet, breathlessly claiming, for example, to ‘uncover’ the truth about the President’s health insurance reform positions.” He noted that “[t]here is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there” and that the “rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation.”

He concluded the post by explaining that “[s]ince 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”

This citizen reporting program raises significant First Amendment concerns. For what purpose is this information being gathered? To whom will the information be disseminated? Is the intent of the program to stifle free and open debate on the serious policy issues raised by health care reform? Will you flag media outlets that publish articles critical of your health care plan? The IP address of the reporting email itself raises questions – for what purpose are these individuals being “flagged?”

On January 21, 2009, you issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies on “Transparency and Open Government.” In the memorandum, you stated that your Administration “is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” You declared that “[g]overnment should be participatory” and that:

"Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policy making and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government."

Creating a program that requests individuals to report on their neighbors, co-workers, family members, and friends who express personal opinions in opposition to your policy choices is not the way to encourage openness and transparency. It is tantamount to policing ideas. Such a program will only stifle free and open debate among the citizens of this great country. Our country was founded on a belief in the necessity of free and open discourse on the important policy and political issues of our day.

In Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 4 (1949), Justice Douglas wrote,
"The vitality of civil and political institutions in our society depends on free discussion. . . . [I]t is only through free debate and free exchange of ideas that government remains responsive to the will of the people and peaceful change is effected. The right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas and programs is therefore one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes. Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger."

Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, supra, pp. 571-572, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.

Your program is counter to these core principles, and since it was announced on the White House Blog it has induced confusion and uncertainty among the American people as to its purpose and underlying goals. Such confusion could lead some into wondering if this is a return to COINTELPRO (the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program directed against Martin Luther King,Jr.), something we are sure you do not intend.

We respectfully request that the program be withdrawn.


Jay A. Sekulow
Chief Counsel

Colby M. May
Director and Senior Counsel


As I said, I've heard the program was removed. I hope so.

Paul B.


Chris Ryan said...

I had not heard of this. Quite disturbing.

But at the same time, under the Patriot Act all this information could have been gathered anyways and the government (a Conservative one, at that) wouldn't even have had to ask.

Paul Burleson said...


I hear you. I shared with you and some others a concern for the patriot act.

I guess my only hesitancy was the situation we were in nationally was so unknown historically that some measures I wouldn't normally appreciate might have been needed much as FDR and the situation he faced his first term.[[Twelve of his Presidential acts such as the NRA, WPA, and others were later declared unconstitutional.] My only other hope was in the fact that it [The Patriot act] had an ending date attached.

I still think it was misused to a degree that I'm not confortable with personally as you've mentioned. Thanks for commenting.

Aussie John said...


If I were an American citizen, I too, would be concerned as I am with similar schemes in our country.

One proposal floating around at the moment is that all cars be fitted with an electronic device which the authorities can monitor. It will give information about where the car is at any given point of time, how far it has traveled, how fast it is traveling, when ever it stops.

It is purported to be only for the purpose of taxing motorists on the actual traveling they do.

I'm not a conspiracy buff, but I didn't come down in the last shower!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

Shades of Orwell's '1884.' George Orwell was ahead of his time when he published that novel in 1949 but his thesis [Big Brother Controls] may be closer to fact now more than ever before.

It's interesting to me that Orwell wrote in response to the dangers he saw inherent in historian Lord Acton's statement: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." The main character in that novel [Winston Smith I think] reveals the case for the truth of that statement.

By the way that same Lord Acton said..."Popular power may be tainted with the same poison as personal power," That Lord Acton was a sharp cookie.

Aussie John said...


Hear! Hear! I've often used Lord Acton's statement in regard to what I see happening in the church.

What many don't seem to grasp is that much within our present systems within government are about control, much as Orwell's novel suggested.

Christians often fail to recognize that their elected representatives are infected with same sinful traits as every other human being, and that, as a result implicit trust cannot/must not be given.

Chris Ryan said...

John and Paul,

Another thing I've heard through the years, though I am unsure if this is a proverb of sorts or if I should be attributing it to a person, "The thing Institutions do best is protect themselves." It's true from how they use lawyers to make sure trials never occur for aggregious law breaking. It's true of advertising and propoganda methods. Once an institution is established (govt, church, corporate, etc.) it just has a natural tendency to be selfish in the promotion of its interests. And the only way to do that is through use and abuse of power. Without control of power the institution cannot last. That's why I've never understood people who think that governments aren't about power. That's why I've never understood people who say that the church isn't about power.

Is there anything inherently wrong with power? No. Some form of power is needed for society to function. But it is about who has that power and how they use it. Any institution will operate best, imo, if they recognize that God has the power (not them) and that He used it to serve and give Himself away.

Anonymous said...

Ok first of all the book was 1984 not 1884 and second the only reason why America is starting to become that type of country is because of George Bush and Republicans.

Im not going to apologize for this.

The Patriot Act, Homeland Security, the two wars are all things that Bush's term created!!! The terrorists destroyed the Trade Center in 2001. Bush was elected in 2000. Where was his protection then??? Did Bush ever find Bin Ladin? No! He went after someone he just didnt like, namely Sudam. Had nothing to do with us being attacked he just didnt like his policies. Did republicans bash Bush for starting a war in the wrong place for the wrong reasons? No they commended the donkey! Oh what a great president for spending so much money on a useless war that is causing the country to have some of the worst economic times.

You know what other policies the republicans like. Torture. Something else you can find in 1984. Christian republicans view life sacred my foot! Torture should never ever be a source! EVER! In this country we give people a fair trial to a jury of their peers. We dont torture them!

Republicans just hate. Thats all they are are haters! We hate gay people! Gays shouldnt be aloud to get married. I dont like president Obama because he wants every American to have health care. I dont like Obama because he wants to get the economy back up from the toilet and heaven for bid he has to use some money to do it. Global warming isnt real! HA!!! Look at the polar ice caps and tell me global warming is a myth you self centered republicans!

Now I dont think the Democrats help their cause either. They back down on a lot of things they should stand up for like carbon emissions, health care reform, getting the troops out of those countries, and so forth. They are a bunch of wusses that let the republicans walk all over them. And they can be two sided just as much as the republicans. President Obama isnt even libral!

I think his faith in Jesus gets in the way of his policy making just like George Bush did.

America wasnt in the Bible, let alone how to run it. We have a separation of church and state for a reason! If you think this country is becoming like 1984 you only have your republican buddies to thank for that.

Maybe Im biased maybe not. I dont like either party to be honest but I sure as heck do not like people that hate all the time and never say anything positive. Especially about our president. He just won a peace prize and the republicans again, instead of being proud of our leader for being so noble and worthy of such a prize, want to belittle the accomplishment.

Yes I just said a lot of negative things about the republicans but Im tired of people having amnesia about George Bush! Obama will help this country. Give him the four years.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for the heads up on 1984. My bad.

Since we're into helping each other it is "Saddam" not "Sudam."

I agree with some of what you say. But this..."Republicans just hate" I don't since I AM a registered Republican but don't hate anything or anyone you mentioned. Thaks for stopping by.