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Connecticut Librarians vs. Patriot Act

The “M” Word, Libraryola, and The Librarian in Black have all picked up the story. The New York Times did a piece on it, as did the ACLU Press. Here’s The “M” Word’s version:

In case you didn’t hear, the “Connecticut Four” are finally able to speak out after enduring the months-long gag order they had been restricted by when the FBI demanded records about their library patrons under the Patriot Act. See the articles in the NY Times this morning, Four Librarians Finally Break Silence in Records Case and Librarians Decry Patriot Act Gag Order (free subscriptions required).

According to a statement released by ALA, “The Plaintiffs were finally allowed to speak publicly after lawyers representing the government withdrew an appeal to keep their identities hidden after Federal District Court Judge Janet C. Hall declared the perpetual gag order that accompanies National Security Letters unconstitutional.”

The four librarians were:

The librarians expressed “frustration about the sweeping powers given to law enforcement authorities by the USA Patriot Act.”

”I am incensed that the government uses provisions of the Patriot Act to justify unrestrained and secret access to the records of libraries,” said George Christian of Windsor, Conn., executive director of the Library Connection, Inc., a consortium of libraries in the central part of the state.”

George Christian was the first one to receive the confidential request from the F.B.I. He was quoted as saying:

I was shocked by the restraints the gag order imposed on me,” said Mr. Christian, who said that after receiving the request he was unsure whether he could consult a lawyer or his board of directors.

“The fact that the government can and is eavesdropping on patrons in libraries has a chilling effect, because they really don’t know if Big Brother is looking over their shoulder,” he added.

Being free to speak now, weeks after the Patriot Act was reauthorized for several more years, was “like being allowed to call the Fire Department after the building has burned down,” he said.

According to ALA’s release, incoming president Leslie Burger hopes that the stand they took will have an effect in creating new laws that “better reflect what this country stands for.”

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