Government's Unchecked Power to Censor Speech

Document Date: August 14, 2006

The feature below shows the danger of giving the government unchecked power to censor speech in the name of national security. The FBI used a National Security Letter (NSL) under the Patriot Act to gag Connecticut librarians from identifying themselves as NSL recipients or disclosing other innocuous details about the case they brought to challenge the NSL.

By clicking on the documents below, you will see the kinds of “dangerous” information the government was able to keep secret by claiming its release would harm national security. The government insisted on redacting this information even after the media correctly reported on Library Connection’s identity as the NSL recipient, and after the government itself had failed to redact Library Connection’s identity in legal papers. For example, the government redacted direct quotes from Supreme Court concerning the government’s inability to censor information that was already public. The government redacted entire news articles that correctly identified Library Connection as the NSL recipient. The government even insisted on blacking out a quote to a state statute about the confidentiality of library records.

Several weeks after the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the government gave up its legal battle over the gag on Library Connection, Inc. In late June, the FBI abandoned its demand for library records altogether. All of the legal documents in the case have now been unsealed.

Here is what the government didn’t want you to see (PDFs):
> Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
> Reply Brief for the Defendants-Appellants
> Plaintiffs-Appellees’ Memorandum in Support of Emergency Motion to Vacate Stay Pending Appeal
> Memorandum in Opposition to Emergency Motion to Vacate
> Supplemental Appendix
> Declaration
> Redacted Excerpt Filed on the Public Docket Aug. 31, 2005
> Redacted news articles
> Redacted New York Times articles

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