White House pulls plug on popular petition (or does it?)

The Electronic Privacy Information Center reports a disturbing but sadly unsurprising development in the struggle to recover our civil liberties.

At approximately 11:30 am EDT, the White House removed a petition about the TSA airport screening procedures from the White House “We the People” website. About 22,500 of the 25,000 signatures necessary for a response from the Administration were obtained when the White House unexpectedly cut short the time period for the petition. The site also went down for “maintenance” following an article in Wired that sought support for the campaign.

If you follow the link to the Wired article, you can read about the circumstances which led to the petition, which was basically asking the White House to intervene to get the TSA to comply with the law.

UPDATE: Commenter Eidolon tracked down a post from the petition’s author stating that the petition was not pulled early, but simply expired. He speculates that people were assuming that the signing period would extend through midnight, but instead it expired in the middle of the day, at roughly the same time as when he first posted it. That’s not unusual, given how computers keep track of time periods, and it’s understandable that this could create the misperception of a prematurely-terminated petition. He also notes that the petition was given an extra day to compensate for the outage.


  1. Ryan Jean says

    I read about this from another source yesterday, and am left with a few lingering questions that are no doubt to remain unanswered: For example, how many days were left on the petition? Were other petitions removed at the same time, and if so was a reason given for any removal? How many signatures did the petition actually have when it disappeared? Were the removals part of the “maintenance,” or was that a separate issue (essentially a slashdot effect of some form or even scheduled maintenance)?

    • F says


      While true, there are a couple issues which remain. One is the need to petition a half-arsed and essentially personal site set up by the current administration to even get the gov to acknowledge that there might be some question regarding the legality of some of what the TSA does and acknowledge abuses. The second is that, if anyone were actually watching, it would seem that this petition addressed something held by a sizable number of people (it’s “popular) to be important. And to simply sigh in relief that it was 3k sig short at expiry is detestable.

      The gov (including the administration which produced this site in a faux-attempt at transparency (transparency theater), should be addressing all these concerns all the time, rather than playing their bureaucratic “we’re busy with something else, please resubmit through proper channels” games.

  2. Timberwoof says

    Wait a couple of months, then start the petition again. Notify Wired, Slashdot, and Freethought Blogs: see to it that it gets wired, slashdotted, and Pharyngulated.

    • Jer says

      This is actually why the whole idea of the White House dinking around with a petition that had almost, but not quite, gotten 25,000 people to click on it (recalling that the population of the US is 311 million, and the number of votes cast in the last presidential election was 130 million) seemed, I don’t know, stupid beyond belief. Clever and not-so-clever Machiavellian politicians know how to handle that kind of thing – you let it expire on its deadline and you ignore it. You don’t dink around with it to prevent it from getting to a “magic number” – you create more news by messing with it than you do by just ignoring it.

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