Saturday, October 25, 2008

Joe the Plumber, Unauthorized Investigation, and Freedom

Joe the Plumber courteously asked Barack Obama how the candidate's position would affect him, and others in his position.

The next day, private information about Samuel J. Wurzelbacher was accessed by Ohio state offices. At least one of the unauthorized peeks used an account assigned to the Ohio Attorney General's office.

The Ohio Attorney General's office is investigating the leaks.

And, judging from the lack of sound and fury coming from traditional news services, it's no big deal.

Ask a Question, Get Unofficially Investigated: Joe the Plumber Could be You, or Me

I wouldn't be very concerned about Joe the Plumber's license records getting the once-over by the Toledo police, or the Ohio Attorney General's office, if it were part of an official, if somewhat overly-cautious, routine for people who have direct contact with political candidates.

I think there might even be a plausible reason for the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency nosing around his records.

Providing that there was some official reason and/or acknowledgment of the investigation.

But in this case:
  • There was no authorization for the snooping
  • In at least one case, an account assigned to the Ohio attorney general's office was used
  • Joe the Plumber's awkward question prompted a Democratic candidate to make an unscripted, very clear, and somewhat controversial, statement
  • Ohio's interim attorney general is a Democrat
    • Replacing another Democrat who resigned
    • Appointed by a Democratic Governor
    • Who says he didn't know she was a Democrat
    • Ohio's office of the attorney general is investigating the leak of private information
      • And had already announced that the leak hasn't come from inside the office of the attorney general
  • And none of this seems to be much more than state news
If that sounds perfectly reasonable, put a name like "John Doe" in place of "Joe the "Plumber," replace "Democrat" and "Democratic" with "Republican," and vice-versa, and see how it looks.

One of America's strengths is that Americans are allowed to ask questions of public officials. Even if the questions are embarrassing, even if the officials accidentally use plain, simple, English in their replies.

For the moment, I'm assuming that this very quiet little look at Joe the Plumber's personal files resulted from a combination of curiosity, lack of common sense, and sloppy security.

If that isn't the case, and more quiet little investigations of citizens who ask the wrong questions become common: America is in trouble.

And trouble like that we don't need.

Enough for this blog. I wrote more elsewhere:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.