Statement - John Doe #1, Target of Illegal Spying
National Security Letters >>
The following is the abridged legal statement of an unnamed representative of a "John Doe" organization that maintains library records. Relying on its expanded powers under the Patriot Act, the FBI used a "national security letter" to demand that Doe turn over sensitive records about library patrons. The ACLU is representing Doe in a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the national security letter power. The demand was never approved by any judge, and included a strict gag order that is still preventing Doe and the ACLU from disclosing Doe’s identity and many other details about the case. The Orwellian gag order prevented Doe from speaking out in opposition to the Patriot Act during the debate in Congress. The ACLU won the case in federal court in Connecticut, and it is now on appeal.
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Statement of anonymous representative of the "John Doe" library organization in Connecticut
But for the Gag…
In my capacity as the DELETED of DELETED I know that the FBI served a National Security Letter ("NSL") on DELETED. I have reviewed the NSL served on DELETED which demands that DELETED provide "any and all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of a person or entity" related to a particular DELETED. The NSL served on DELETED prohibits an "officer, employee or agent … from disclosing to any person that the FBI has sought or obtained access to information or records under these provisions."
I am currently employed as the DELETED of the DELETED I have been the DELETED of the DELETED for DELETED years. I have been a librarian for DELETED years. I received a Master’s in Library Science from the DELETED in DELETED. I have been an active member of the Connecticut Library Association ("CLA") for DELETED years. The CLA is a chapter of the American Library Association (ALA).
I currently serve as the DELETED of the DELETED of CLA. I have held this position for DELETED years. My duties and responsibilities include keeping the DELETEDlibrary community and the general public informed about intellectual freedom issues affecting both DELETED and the nation. For example, I regularly plan and participate in events and programs on important intellectual freedom issues, including the relationship between the government and libraries. As the DELETED of the DELETED, it is also my duty and responsibility to speak out about any infringement to the intellectual freedom of libraries of which I have knowledge.
I define "intellectual freedom" in the library context as the right of patrons to use public libraries as a space to explore different ideas, even controversial and unpopular ones, in privacy and absent the risk of government surveillance or monitoring. I believe that, in order to participate in the democratic process, citizens need access to a wide variety of viewpoints on different topics. I also believe that, in order for democracy to work, citizens must have access to a wide range of information on which to base their decisions, and that citizen’s reading choices, like their voting choices, need to be private. I, therefore, believe that libraries have an affirmative obligation to protect the privacy of their patrons and their library records, both paper and electronic. I also believe that the need for such privacy is greatest in times of war or threats to national security when the risk of government intrusion is highest and the need for informed and aware citizenry greatest.
I had no knowledge of the NSL provision of the Patriot Act until DELETED was served with the NSL. I have never heard the NSL power discussed in any of the many forums relating to intellectual freedom and libraries I have attended. Now that I know about the NSL power, the gag is preventing me from educating my own library, CLA, ALA, and other libraries and library associations about the NSL power and the threat that it poses to the privacy of library patrons.
In my capacity as DELETED of CLA’s DELETED, I am frequently asked questions about the application of the Patriot Act to libraries. As a result of the gag, I evade some of the questions posed to me by these callers. I believe that basic information about NSLs would be useful for state libraries to know. I further believe that it is my ethical obligation as the DELETED of the DELETED openly and honestly answer such inquiries. I am, however, afraid that were I to even mention the word "NSL" in response to such an inquiry, I would be accused of violating the gag provision, and would subject both the DELETED and myself to extremely serious government sanctions, including, possibly, imprisonment. I have, therefore, remained silent about any and all aspects of NSL power, including its mere existence.
The gag is also preventing me from discussing the fact that DELETED received an NSL with state legislators. As a DELETED for CLA, it is my duty to discuss precisely this type of issue with state legislators. But for the gag, I would contact my partner state legislator and inform her that DELETED has received and NSL. But for the gag, I would also inform my local legislator about the concerns I have about NSLs and their impact on patron privacy. Because of the gag, I am unable to even mention this issue to local legislators or to ask for assistance in handling this matter.
The gag provision has also made it difficult for me to maintain normal communications with my staff, business colleagues, family members, and friends. When I receive or make phone calls with my lawyers about this case, I have had to make up excuses about who I am speaking with and why. I have had to operate in secret around my staff in a way that is out of the ordinary and that makes me uncomfortable. I have experienced stress as a result of receiving the NSL but am, because of the gag provision, unable to discuss this stress with my family, friends, or colleagues.
The gag is also preventing me from educating the general public about the relationship between libraries and the Patriot Act powers generally, and the NSL provision specifically. Based on my long-standing history in public education efforts related to the intellectual freedom of libraries, it is my belief that the public has an interest in learning that libraries may be served with NSLs. In my three decades of experience as a librarian, I have learned that library patrons take the right of privacy within libraries very seriously. I believe that library patrons use books and computers within libraries under the assumption that what they read and view is private and free from government monitoring. I believe that if American citizens were to learn that the government has served a library with an NSL, it would influence the ongoing public debate about the Patriot Act. But for the gag, I would be an active participant in this debate within my own community.
For more information on National Security Letters, go to www.aclu.org/nsl