Cornyn Still Concerned About E-Mail Data Collected by White House Program

Posted August 19, 2009 at 12:00pm

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) directed criticism toward the White House again Wednesday over a recently dissolved Web-based program designed to target misinformation in the health care debate.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, who initially aired his problems with the program in an Aug. 5 letter to President Barack Obama, reiterated his concern Wednesday that the program infringes on First Amendment rights.

“While I am pleased that the program has apparently been dismantled, I remain concerned about the information that was collected during the 13 days that this program was in effect,— Cornyn wrote in another letter Wednesday to Obama.

Cornyn requested the White House address allegations that e-mails sent through its Web site that were flagged because they contained “fishy— information on health care may have been shared with the Democratic National Committee and other third-party groups.

Cornyn sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which should begin debate on major health care legislation this fall, and he further lashed out against White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and New Media Director Macon Phillips for supporting the program.

Phillips defended the program in a White House Blog post Monday.

“An ironic development is that the launch of an online program meant to provide facts about health insurance reform has itself become the target of fear-mongering and online rumors that are the tactics of choice for the defenders of the status quo,— Phillips wrote.

Still, the White House e-mail address set up to accept tips of “fishy— health care information became inactive Monday.

“This unprecedented program to monitor private emails and casual conversations is inconsistent with America’s tradition of free speech and public discourse,— Cornyn wrote. “The program should not be defended by your White House, and I would appreciate your commitment that your administration will not engage in any similar program in the future.—