Plaintiffs in Doe v. Ashcroft — the lawsuit that questioned the gag order provision of the USA PATRIOT Act, the one that the government decided not to appeal — tell their story at an ACLU press conference. They are employees of the Library Connection. Here are the official statements of George Christian, Janet Nocek, Barbara Bailey and Peter Chase.
It was galling for me to see the government’s attorney in Connecticut, Kevin O’Connor, travel around the state telling people that their library records were safe, while at the same time he was enforcing a gag order preventing me from telling people that their library records were not safe. On one occasion, we were both invited to speak at the same event in Hartford, sponsored by the Women’s League of Voters. Mr. O’Connor accepted his invitation, but I had to refuse mine because of the gag order.
The US Government has abandoned its pursuit of an appeal to a struck-down gag order against the Connecticut librarian who had received a demand for library records by the FBI. In short, the gag order is lifted and this is good news.
The case, Doe vs Gonzales, concerned a librarian who was served with a National Security Letter (NSL). The librarian [identified as George Christian in other newspapers], who appears to already have been an outspoken advocate of intellectual freedom, objected to the gag order [biggish pdf, a few screenshots here] disallowing him from speaking to his own library, the CT Library Assocation or the American Library Association about this issue. He argues that the gag order prevented him from creating effective policies should such a thing happen again, and prevented him from educating other libraries about the existence and specifics of NSLs.
A few things have happened with the USA PATRIOT Act in the last week or so. The act was reauthorized, most of it indefinitely. Notably, Section 215 was changed somewhat and authorized for another four years. Library Journal has a blurb on how this affects libraries which is worth reading. I noticed that ALA President Michael Gorman had issued a statement about the reauthorization which had cycled off the main page of ALA by the following morning. I posted a note about this to the Council list (excellent archiving software that breaks all hyperlinks, huh?) and his response is back on the main page. Nothing on the main page of the Washington Office. Nothing on the main page of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, though both have fought against the USA PATRIOT Act since the beginning and do have a lot of information buried in their sites.
I was asked for a statement about the renewal and had been spending so much time with a close eyeball on my local Senators (who both voted against it) that I wasn’t entirely on top of it. You can hear a quickie interview with me on Moby Lives Radio (MP3 file). Suffice to say that I’m not mollified by the changes to Section 215 and I’m still concerned about this Act’s implications for the privacy of all library users.
A few posts made it to the Council list today about the USA PATRIOT Act compromises that are being hammererd out in Congress. First, this post that comes from ALA’s Washington Office details the state of the version of the bill that is currently being discussed for reauthorization. ALA opposes this version of the legislation.
Karen Schneider posts more links that include summaries from other sources such as the Washington Post and the ACLU.
Hi. I’m back and very tired. Midwinter went fairly well from my perspective. Council meetings seemed effective. I got to see most of the people i tried to see and had some nice serendipitous meetings with others. My company was part usual suspects and part people I’d never met before including a healthy dose of library students. I learned things. I took a lot of public transportation in an unfamiliar city. I stayed within my budget and I got home feeling smarter than when I left. I have a stack of paperwork that I’d like to share parts of with you but it will need to wait until the weekend.
In the meantime, while we were all at the meeting, this happened “City stalls FBI access in library” referring to the librarian at the Newton Free Library in Massachusetts who wouldn’t let FBI agents in to search library computers without a warrant after there had been emailed threats directed towards Brandeis University sent from one of the library computers. According to an article in the Boston Herald, this was done with the mayor’s knowledge and backing but everyone seems set to blame the librarian anyhow. This was a big enough news items to be the butt of a lot of jokes on talk radio by the time I was driving home from the airport. I’m just starting to read about this story, but correct me if I’m wrong, couldn’t the agents have just asked for the data on the computers, using the USA PATRIOT Act as their legal justification? This seems like a case where they were reluctant to for some reason. The Boston Globe article on the subject says this
[B]y the time a warrant became an issue, law enforcement officials had determined there was no imminent danger and decided to cooperate with Newton officials, Marcinkiewicz said. She said no arrests had been made as of yesterday afternoon. [emphasis mine]