If Joe the Plumber were Jawad the Suspected Terrorist, civil liberties activists would stampede the halls of Congress on his behalf. Liberal columnists would hyperventilate over the outrageous invasions of his privacy by Ohio state and local employees. The ACLU would demand the Big Brother snoopers' heads. And Democratic leaders would convene immediate hearings and parade him around the Beltway as the new poster boy/victim of unlawful domestic spying.
But because peaceful American citizen Joe Wurzelbacher is an outspoken enemy of socialism, rather than an enemy of America, the defenders of privacy have responded to his plight with an impenetrable cone of silence.
After the last presidential debate, during which John McCain invoked Joe the Plumber's anti-socialism shot heard 'round the world, several taxpayer-subsidized employees in Ohio immediately rifled through government databases in search of damning information. The Columbus Dispatch identified Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, as one of the dirt-diggers. She also happens to support Barack Obama and contributed the maximum amount to his presidential campaign.
On Wednesday, Jones-Kelley admitted that the records checks on Wurzelbacher that she approved were far more extensive than she first acknowledged. In addition to pawing through his child-support papers, the agency "also checked Wurzelbacher in its computer systems to determine whether he was receiving welfare assistance or owed unemployment compensation taxes."
Jones-Kelley argued that plumbing the plumber's information was no big deal because the agency always checks up on citizens who come into public light. Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland quickly pooh-poohed the civil liberties infringements and denied any nefarious political motives.
If that doesn't send a chill up your spine, you don't have a spine.
In addition to Jones-Kelley, investigators have uncovered at least three additional suspicious uses of state computer systems to access Wurzelbacher's data. Toledo police records clerk Julie McConnell has been charged with gross misconduct for accessing the Law Enforcement Automated Data System to retrieve Wurzelbacher's address. She reportedly did it as a favor to a reporter. Authorities also say the Cuyahoga County social services office was compromised and an outside contractor with access to the state attorney general's test account similarly searched Wurzelbacher's data. Moreover, his driver's-license and vehicle-registration information were obtained from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.