Statement - Ronald Algrant

April 20, 2006

For many years, as the chair of the International Freedom to Publish Committee, and later the Fund for Free Expression, I took trips with colleagues to countries like the Soviet Union, Turkey and Cuba to report on the repression of free expression. During these trips, we were aware that because the authoritarian governments knew the purpose of our visit that they would attempt to listen to all our conversations. We assumed our phones were tapped; we were very careful.

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It is really shocking to discover now, not so many years later, that the very same situation exists in our United States. Our president has decided that he does not have to pay attention to the Constitution or our laws, but instead he has instructed our government to tap our phones and look at our e-mails without court orders.

In our international book business, we deal with thousands of clients outside the U.S. They are booksellers, publishers, book packagers and authors. The idea that we can no longer count on our communications being private is frightening. That we must worry about what we say to each other is surely going to inhibit the free flow of ideas and hinder economic growth.

The fact that international businesses must now assume that the privacy of their communication with their clients abroad is no longer guaranteed is the worse possible message that our government can send to the financial community.

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