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Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights
BTL:Librarians Who Challenged Patriot Act Win Right To Speak Out Current rating: 0
09 Jun 2006
Modified: 02:26:18 PM
Interview with George Christian, executive director of the Library Connection in Windsor, Conn. conducted by Between the Lines' Scott Harris
Librarians Who Challenged Patriot Act Win Right To Speak Out

Interview with George Christian, executive director of the Library Connection in Windsor, Conn. conducted by Scott Harris

George Christian, executive director of the Library Connection in Windsor, Conn. received an ominous call, and later a "national security letter" from the FBI last summer demanding the records of library patrons related to a federal investigation. "National Security Letters," established under the post 9/11 USA Patriot Act, authorized the FBI to secretly obtain credit and library records without judicial oversight and regardless of the target's involvement in illegal activity. The provision also imposes a gag rule on those served with the letters. Some 30,000 national security letters are issued by the government each year.

Christian and three officers from his organization, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, decided to challenge the government's right to silence their ability to publicly express opposition to the Patriot Act. In September 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall ruled in favor of the librarians, collectively known then as "John Doe." She said, the law, "has the practical effect of silencing individuals with a constitutionally protected interest in speech and whose voices are particularly important in an ongoing national debate about the intrusion of government authority into individual lives." However, Judge Hall's ruling was put on hold by a Justice Department appeal. But, in late May a three-judge panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the government's petition and let Judge Hall's ruling stand -- allowing the librarians to speak out for the first time.

Although Congress revised portions of the Patriot Act, many civil libertarians continue to see dangers in the legislation. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with George Christian of the Library Connection about why his group challenged the Patriot Act, and his concern over the erosion of civil liberties in America.

For more information on challenges to the USA Patriot Act, contact the American Library Association by calling 1-(800) 545-2433 or visit their Web site at: www.ALA.org

Related links:

* American Civil Liberties Union at www.aclu.org
* "Library Connection is "John Doe"- Board speaks about NSL order for library records,"American Library Association press release, May 30, 2006

LISTEN to this week's half-hour program of Between The Lines by clicking on one of the links below:
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