Dear Mr. President: now might not be the best time to say you were pawing through records of my email addresses

Dear Mr. President: now might not be the best time to say you were pawing through records of my email addresses

Summary: After spending weeks reading about the NSA mess, getting a note from the President's fundraising team telling me they were looking at records associated with my email address just raised the hairs on the back of my neck.


I get spam from the President. For whatever reason, I don't get spam from the Republicans, even though I've mocked them just as much as I've mocked the Democrats. And yet, I constantly get presidential political spam.

Okay, to be fair, I do get spam from the Reagan Library, but they have some good offers. They once had a big Mickey Mouse special, which I almost went for. I'm not a Disney fan, but being an hour from Orlando, it's always smart to act as if you're part of the club. After all, they have ears everywhere.

I'm still not entirely sure why the Reagan Library was doing so much Mickey Mouse stuff, but hey, that's politics for you. 

That all brings me back to the current message I got from Normally, I don't read pres-o-spam, but this one had a subject line that seemed so badly formatted, I was convinced it was actually some kind of malware or phishing scam.


It was neither a malware nor phishing scam. I checked, and the message was, in fact, from For some reason, one Kathy Gasperine, the Development Director of Organizing for Action, seemed to think it was okay to scold me for not sending her five bucks — one measly Lincoln.

Apparently, the President isn't just inspired by Lincoln (the man), he wants to collect Lincolns (the bucks). Sorry, I gave at the tax return.

I'll show you the full letter at the end of this column, but what got me writing to begin with was the following sentence right at the beginning of her letter:

"I was looking at our records associated with this exact email address — and it looks like you haven't chipped in yet."

Can you see what got my attention? Yeah, I'll bet you do. A representative of the President was telling me she was "looking at our records associated with this exact email address." Looking at our records...

I don't know about you, but after spending weeks reading and writing about the NSA mess, getting a note from the President's fundraising team telling me they were looking at records associated with my email address just raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

Now, speaking personally, I know the government has all sorts of records on me, because I've got a certain series of relationships with certain governmental organizations. So I generally expect my records to be watched. Frankly, all of you watch all my stuff like a hawk, and I've even shared my fixations with horseradish and coffee over Twitter, so it's not exactly like I, personally, live a private life.

Even so, this sort of sentence is just the sort of goof the President doesn't need to be making right now. Oh, and you know what else kind of gave me the willies? I got two emails. One came to my public account that everyone has (including every spammer on the planet). But another email came to one of my private email addresses that's not out there in public view.

I'm not saying there's anything nefarious here, but this isn't exactly the best season for the President to take this creepy approach, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, that's enough whining for today. Here's the full letter.



Topics: Privacy, Government US


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • What an overreaction

    They've obviously just cross referenced the addresses on the mailing list with the email addresses associated with donations made. This is a simple SQL query, not a nefarious snooping plot.
    Shane Gowland
  • Stop being paranoid, privacy is dead

    I think 9-11 if it did anything it was kill privacy forever. The ability for your baggage, yourself, and confiscate certain items was not enough. We have also gave our government the snooping ability on the fear of yet another terror attack. Of course the NSA and other security agencies reply that this has stopped some attacks. But obviously not a couple of men who attacked the Boston Marathon. Two men and one widely known by Russia to have ties to terror along with their mother? I personally have nothing to hide, I am a person who would rather give up some privacy to be safe. But I also believe in profiling and focusing my investigative talents on people truly capable of performing terrorists acts. This would be far more efficient in keeping America safe.
    • Good

      Can I come round to your trailer then and rifle through all your possessions just to check that you have nothing to hide ?
      Alan Smithie
  • Didn't ZDNet post a recent Ken Hess blog about paranoid fraidy cats, David?

    Could be a good read.
    • Ken Hess

      David referenced this in his weekly round up so I'm sure he read it.

      An article doesn't necessarily mean we all agree.

      Speaking of contradictory stories, did you see that Tom Foremski wrote something positive about older people? Of course it was that jerky jerk-face jerk Elison.
      • I know, Bill. I was just razzing David a bit.

        I found it amusing that David and Ken would pen blog articles centered around a common theme and do so from different points of view.

        As for myself, I feel quite safe posting this comment as I am protected by my tin foil, custom made, anti-paronoid baseball cap liner. BTW, the trick is to hide that bit of protection under a baseball cap from the spying eyes of the Government. Informers are all around us, don't you know. Grin.
  • So, why does a lame duck

    President have a fund raising team?
    • Good question

      I have to second that seemingly simple question. Why does a President with no more elections to face need more campaign money?
      Kevin Bruce
      • Third term

        He thinks he can do a third term.
        • Unlikely

          I'm quite sure the only way Republicans *might* be persuaded to go along is if the limit continued to be applied to the sitting president and all previous ones.
          John L. Ries
    • Very simple...

      ...they ALL do it. Doesn't matter what party they're from.
      • No, they don't. They'll help raise money for the party

        not for themselves.
        • Looks like that's what he's doing here

          Not directly, but I don't think Organizing for Action will be supporting any Republican candidates or causes.
          John L. Ries
    • A couple of possibilities

      1. Retiring campaign debts
      2. Transferring funds to favored candidates

      In this case, however, it looks like President Obama's people are raising money for a PAC (Organizing for Action) as a means of maintaining his own political influence as long as possible.
      John L. Ries
  • Silly question

    Have you ever contributed to President Obama's election campaigns?
    John L. Ries
  • Why does he need more money?

    Because the vision, the goal to transform the country, whether he comes back for a 3rd time (because we need him still and term limits be damned) or Hillary takes the throne (or someone else), becasuse we must continue to impose justice for all...pre-born humans exempted of course.