Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Remember Bobby and Jack?

What do the above pics have in common? Click here for the post

The Fraud Queen Porn Star?

Reckless Justice and Congress Encroachment?

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Librarians Shushed No More Silenced Employees Finally Speak Out About Secretive FBI Letter On Internet Records
May 31, 2006 By LYNNE TUOHY, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The four librarians at the heart of a legal battle over whether the FBI can simply demand access to patron records had to remain silent and invisible throughout the congressional debate leading to March's renewal of the controversial USA Patriot Act.

So when they spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday, the limelight was a mixed blessing.

"Being allowed to speak now is like being allowed to call the fire department after the building has burned to the ground," said George Christian, executive director of Library Connection in Windsor, a nonprofit cooperative of libraries in the Hartford area that share computerized catalogs and records.

"I'm very relieved I can speak now. ... I can talk about the dangers I perceive to libraries," Christian said.

"As far as going before Congress, it's too little too late and I deeply regret that."Christian and three Library Connection colleagues - board president Barbara Bailey, board secretary Janet Nocek and board vice president Peter Chase - challenged the FBI national security letter they received last summer to produce records of patron Internet use. The American Civil Liberties Union, whose headquarters was the site of Tuesday's press conference, championed their cause and contested the non-disclosure provisions of the security letter that prohibit recipients from telling anyone they have received one.

The case was filed using a "John Doe" pseudonym.U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall ruled in September that the librarians' First Amendment rights were violated by the gag order, particularly in the midst of national debate over the scope of the USA Patriot Act.

U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor appealed to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which last week dismissed the appeal as moot in light of amendments Congress made to permit national security letter recipients to consult a lawyer and mount a legal challenge to the demands of a particular letter.

Unlike search and arrest warrants, the FBI can issue national security letters without having a judge first review and approve them.

Although the 2nd Circuit dismissed the case on procedural grounds, without reaching the merits of the First Amendment claims, Judge Richard J. Cardamone wrote separately to note such claims are significant. He also chided government lawyers for attempting to have the case vacated, which, he wrote, "is not surprising, but right in line with the pervasive climate of secrecy...The government attempts to purge from the public record the fact that it had tried and failed to silence the Connecticut plaintiffs.

"It is not clear whether other librarians in Connecticut have received national security letters; the Library Connection librarians are the first in the country to have challenged such a demand.

Bailey, who is also director of the Welles-Turner Memorial Library in Glastonbury, had just begun her one-year stint as president of Library Connection's board when Christian called to ask her how they should react.

"I was told it was going to be a fairly easy job," Bailey quipped Tuesday.

"Little did I know what was in store for me. I had never heard of an NSL."

"It all reminded me of George Orwell's `1984.' You knew it was fiction. You knew it was preposterous," Bailey said.

"But you know, I've been living it."

Bailey said she didn't tell family members or colleagues at Welles-Turner, where she has worked for a quarter-century, about her uncomfortable existence as one of the John Doe librarians.

Bailey encountered an ironic situation a month ago when the Connecticut Library Association awarded "John Doe" the librarian of the year award, and asked her, as incoming association president, to accept it.

"They were surmising who they thought John Doe was, but they never connected with me," Bailey said.

"It was kind of a neat thing."

Nocek, who is director of the Portland Public Library, said she had "never thought about what it would be like to have the freedom to speak freely taken away."

"Just imagine the government came to you with an order demanding you compromise your professional responsibilities and principles, and then being permanently gagged from speaking about this wrenching experience with friends, colleagues and family members," Nocek said.

"I felt dishonest [because of] this lack of disclosure to people in my town and on my library board," she said.

Chase, who is director of the Plainville Public Library, said , "Our clients tell us very personal things, about their legal problems, their medical problems, their children.

That's why we feel so strongly about this whole issue.

"Although the new law permits national security letter recipients to consult a lawyer, ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer said the revised act remains riddled with problems."

Our concern with the new law is it essentially requires the court to defer to the executive decision that secrecy is necessary," Jaffer said.

"Some changes actually make this law worse, not better."

Attorney Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU, said the Library Connection has not turned over any of the records sought in the national security letter, and the legal battle continues over other portions of the demand.

The librarians still are prohibited from discussing the targets of the demand letter and the scope of the records sought.


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