why is the ACLU suing the Library of Congress?

The ACLU filed a lawsuit agains the Library of Congress for terminating a CRS Assistant Director for writing a letter to the editor for the Washington post and an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. Colonel Morris D. Davis was, prior to his CRS position, responsible for the prosecution of suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay.

62. Because of his former position as the Chief Prosecutor for the military commissions, Col. Davis is regularly asked to comment on Guantánamo and the military commissions system. Col. Davis believes he has a unique perspective to add to this debate, and he would like to convey his insights and opinions to the public. Since he was informed that he was being terminated by CRS, however, Col. Davis has declined numerous opportunities to speak publicly about military commissions issues out of fear that he could be subject to further retaliation by the Library and [CRS Director Daniel] Mulhollan.
63. The decision to terminate Col. Davis for his speech has intimidated and chilled other CRS employees from speaking and writing in public. CRS employees are confused, uncertain, and fearful about what outside speaking and writing is permissible.
64. As a result of the Library’s and Mr. Mulhollan’s actions, Col. Davis has suffered, and/or will suffer, both economic and non-economic losses, emotional distress, and other compensable damages.

book burning threat makes headlines in WI challenge dispute

I read this CNN article about a group in Wisconsin who has been fighting with the West Bend Community Memorial Library over the group’s desire to have a long list of YA books moved to the adult section of the library. Their challenge failed, but there’s a lawsuit pending.

The news article has the predictable all-over-the-place approach to the issue but it seems that this is one of those fights that has everything including outraged parents, a beleaguered library board whose members don’t have their terms renewed, assertion of First Amendment rights, threats of book burning, and a lot of homophobic-sounding nastiness. The article, though on the web, also doesn’t seem to understand the usefulness of hyperlinks to telling a story that is playing out on the web so I have added them here

I really wish the library or the city had more accessible public statements about this whole ongoing mess.

some things really do change overnight

I’ve been getting over a nasty flu just on the backside of the MIT Mystery Hunt so I’ve been a little scarce. I also pretty much slept through most of the Inauguration festivities yesterday. However, I didn’t need to listen to speeches or see record crowds to know that some things are changing. I think Obama is as fallible as the next human being, but I’ve been encouraged at a few of the things that have happened this week, some intentional, some coincidental.

The first is Obama’s immediate revocation of Executive Order 13233, an order by the Bush administration that, according to the National Coalition for History, “severely limited access by the public to presidential records” You can read the offical text of the order on the revamped Whitehouse.gov which I recommend a look at.

The second good news this week was the Supreme Court declining to review “a Third Circuit Court decision last July striking down the Child Online Protection Act of 1998.” In other words, COPA was struck down by a US District judge, a decision which was upheld by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and then contested by the Bush Administration to the US Supreme Court who, this week, refused to hear it. You can read the timeline yourself on Wikipedia. The Supreme Court’s failure to act is pretty much the death knell for COPA, a law that never took effect. While not as applicable to libraries as CIPA, the law itself does touch on whether or not restricting or prohibiting materials as “harmful to minors” is itself a problematic restriction on speech. U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed commented “perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”

Federal court rules USA PATRIOT Act’s National Security Letters unconstitutional

The EFF has just reported that the gag order provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act concerning National Security Letters are unconstitutional. This is NOT the Connecticut case, but a related one concerning the records of an internet service provider. Here is more explanation from the ACLU and a link to the decision (pdf). The decision claims this gag order provision of the USA PATRIOT Act is unconstituional because “it does not afford adequate procedural safeguardd, and because it is not a sufficiently narrowly tailored restriction on protected speech.”

free speech on mailing lists – a peek at ALACOUN

I haven’t yet decided if I want to run for a second term on ALA Council. However, exchanges like the following definitely help influence my opinion: first, second.