Friday, June 30, 2006

The Nation | American Patriots

Found this via LISnews

The Nation | American Patriots

...Since the enactment of the Patriot Act in 2001, the American Library Association (ALA) has been at the forefront of the fight to defend freedom of inquiry and thought from provisions of the act that allow the Justice Department to subpoena the records of libraries and bookstores. The librarians succeeded in getting the House to adopt language protecting library records in 2005--only to have it stripped from the bill to which it was attached by an Administration-friendly House-Senate conference committee.

But the librarians have not just been lobbying to change the Patriot Act, they've been on the front lines of exposing its abuses. When four Connecticut librarians challenged an attempt by the FBI to use a National Security Letter to obtain records of who was reading what in that state, the Justice Department slapped a gag order on them. But the 64,000-member ALA and its Freedom to Read Foundation stood up for the librarians, working with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Association of American Publishers and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to make a federal case of the issue. In May, after the FBI dropped its defense of the gag order--and shortly before it withdrew its demand for the records--a federal appeals court declared that order moot, and the librarians were at last free to speak out. Peter Chase, director of the Plainville, Connecticut, public library, explained that he and his fellow librarians decided to fight because of their frustration at receiving the National Security Letter even as "the government was telling Congress that it didn't use the Patriot Act against libraries and that no one's rights had been violated. I felt that I just could not be part of this fraud being foisted on our nation..."

Be sure to read the entire editorial.

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