Saturday, January 29, 2011

From X-Files to I-Files: The Ministry of Truth is Out There

If you ever requested material from the United States government under the Freedom of Information Act, Darrell Issa wants to know who you are and what you wanted to find out. Ostensibly a move to make sure the agencies are complying with FOIA requests, it seems more like a data-mining, privacy-intrusion ploy. The new Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee wants to put the names of ordinary people on a Master List, and to find out what questions are secretly seething in their busy little brains. And, chillingly, in the case of journalists, what stories they might be working on, or in the case of civil rights activists, what evidence they may be seeking for whistleblowing cases or any number of instances of government wrong-doing. Students requesting information, scientists doing research, even people seeking to determine if they're even on an FBI watch list or have an FBI file. The potential victims are many, and the possibilities for abuse are endless. The not-so-subtle message: Ask Not of Your Country, or you'll be sorry. It's Big Brother come to life. Aren't Homeland Security and the NSA bad enough? X-Files: meet the Issa Files.

In a letter dated January 25 and addressed to the FOIA officers of 49 separate government sub-agencies, Issa demanded records for the past five years which include: the name of the requestor, the date of the request, a brief description of the documents or records sought, tracking numbers, what information was in fact provided and the date the request was closed if it is not in fact still outstanding.

The bulk of the information sought by Issa is from the Department of Justice. He wants to know the names of people who made inquiries on immigration cases, prisoners, Interpol, drug enforcement and violence against women, to name just few. He says he wants the names of citizens and the information they sought to make sure the government is serving them properly. If you believe that, you believe the GOP puts the interests of ordinary people above those of corporations.

People aren't exaggerating when they compare Issa to Senator Joe McCarthy. This guy isn't satisfied digging for dirt in the Obama Administration. He's digging away at regular people. I'm waiting for him to stand up on the House floor waving pieces of paper in the air and declaiming thousands of innocent Americans as enemies of the State for daring to ask questions or seek information. He may not be a paranoid alcoholic like McCarthy, but he is certainly drunk with power. He may not be a nicotine fiend, but he's every bit as creepy as the Cigarette-Smoking Man. His moment of public shame will not come a moment too soon. Where are Mulder and Scully when we need them?


Anonymous said...

Karen, I had read about this but completely missed the danger. I just thought it was a disgusting effort to tie up the administration. What you point out is the scariest thing yet dreamed up by these folks. This seems akin to FBI (or CIA?) efforts during the 9/11 hysteria to find out from librarians what is being read by whom. As I recall, librarians successfully blocked such intrusion. Might we have some protections in this instance?


Mary Ann Evans said...

Unfortunately the issue of public shame is of no concern to Issa and his fellow zeslots. They have their own sources of "news" eager to support their corporate oligarchy. They care not about the criticisms of the main stream media because they have successfully delegitimatized it in the minds of their flock on the political right.

Issa is as scary as they come. Any tactic (the Gray Davis recall comes to mind) in support of his nutty ideology is fair and appropriate according to Darrell. I'm thinking you are not being fair to the memmory of Joe McCarthy when you compare him to Darrell Issa.