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Op-Ed: Hawaii may block access to public records if you're 'vexatious'

By Samantha A. Torrence     Mar 17, 2010 in Politics
Hawaii continues to receive 20 letters a week demanding proof of President Obama's birth on American soil. However, Hawaii can dub those applicants "vexatious requesters" and ban them from accessing government records for two years.
Is President Obama a natural born citizen of the United States of America and thus eligible for the Presidency? That may be the question of the Birthers, but that is not the point of this article. Rather there is a deeper problem regarding the clash of freedom of information and privacy.
Yahoo news reports that Tuesday the Hawaii House Judiciary Committee looked over potential legislation that would give the "state Office of Information Practices could declare an individual a "vexatious requester" and restrict rights to government records for two years."
So basically if you get annoying, not only are you barred access from requesting the same information, but also from requesting for any information for two years. Is that constitutional?
Hawaii state employees claim that the repeated requests are a waste of time and tax payer dollars because they are not allowed to release Obama's birth records due to privacy issues. Part of the job description is being "annoyed" by fellow citizens. Government workers are employed at the pleasure of the people. Perhaps it is time a reminder is sent.
It seems that the Birther issue is bringing out the worst in what is considered the freedom and transparency of not only this current Administration but America. The problem comes down to this question, " Is a public figures resume and verification of eligibility requirements private from his employer, in this case the people?"
When you apply for a job you must sign a release allowing a business to do a proper background check and other types of vetting to make sure you are a good fit for the job. When you apply for federal or state benefits you also must present very personal information to verify citizenship and add to means testing. Before you join the military again your records are there for the potential employer to see. Birthers contest that the American people should be allowed access to the official records of the President since they are the ultimate employers. Apparently the State of Hawaii disagrees with that assertion and comes down on the side of right to privacy. Public figure or not, a person is guaranteed a right to privacy through the Privacy Act of 1974.
Repeated requests for information are par of the course when it comes trying to access any records from the government. Many people cannot be bothered to persist and thus give up, much like dealing with insurance company claims. Some however have the fortitude for the inconvenience of dealing with government Bureaucracy, like the people who run The Black Vault.
The Birthers may be annoying, but do they have a point? Should we be allowed access to records of individuals "we the people" plan on employing? Or should we take Hawaii's route, "Annoy us and lose freedom of information."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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