Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday to express his concern about "a new White House program to monitor American citizens' speech opposing your health care policies."
Cornyn's letter was prompted by a White House blog post written by White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips.
"Scary 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," Phillips wrote. "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."
Cornyn wrote that he could think of no other incident of a president asking American citizens to report on their fellow citizens' political speech. He said that "citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights."
Furthermore, Cornyn wrote, the collection of e-mails could amount to the White House amassing various forms of personally identifiable information.
"By requesting that citizens send 'fishy' emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House," he wrote. "You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program."
Cornyn requested that the White House answer a number of questions, such as how it intends to use and then purge the information it collects, what actions will be taken against citizens reported for "fishy" speech and whether the president's own past comments qualify as "disinformation."