May 05, 2006



Librarians battle for freedom
by Jim Hightower

Let's hear it for a rugged bunch of two-fisted, tough-as-nails freedom fighters: America's librarians.

Yes! Throw out your stereotype of the meek librarian and see these gutsy people for what they are — front-line battlers for your and my personal liberties. Librarians have long been leaders in the ongoing free-speech fight against censorship, but lately they've also been forced into leading the battle against the privacy-invading provisions of the infamous USA Patriot Act.

This law allows federal agents to go to any public library and rifle through our personal records to see what books we've checked out or what emails we've sent. It also slaps a gag order on America's librarians, making it a crime for them to reveal that their records have been seized.

Librarians revolted. One group of them that had been subjected to these secret FBI searches filed a landmark lawsuit last year, asserting that the gag provision is a violation of free speech. The Library Connection of Windsor, CN, a co-op of 26 libraries that share an automated records system, demanded that it be free simply to identify itself as having endured the secret raid.

But George W's federal prosecutors claimed that the government would suffer irreparable harm if this information was made public. Last year, a federal judge ruled for the co-op, but the Bushites appealed. Then — oops! — in a court filing, the prosecutors themselves mistakenly disclosed the very name of the group they were trying to keep secret. This boo-boo, plus a recent change in the Patriot Act loosening up the gag provision, finally led the feds to surrender to the librarians, saying, "Continuing to pursue this appeal does not make sense."

Nothing about such open-ended raids on our library records makes sense! To help the librarians battle, call the American Library Association: 800-545-2433.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com


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