Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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September 6, 2005

The ACLU’s Connecticut lawsuit continues to figure prominently in the media.

Editorial boards are writing strongly in favor of lifting the gag. “While there are clearly ongoing investigations that may warrant concealment of related materials and identities,” says the Toledo Blade, “such a rationale can also be twisted to hide whatever abuses of power the government may have engaged in to obtain personal information on private citizens.”

The New York Times also has this piece on Connecticut librarians, and their response to the Patriot Act and the ACLU lawsuit:

Librarians say their concerns over the lack of oversight are now playing out in Federal District Court in Bridgeport in a case involving a library organization that has received a demand for patron information as part of a broader, unidentified terrorism investigation.

“It’s the argument that was waiting to happen,” said Ann Osbon, the assistant city librarian in Bridgeport. Until the case burst into view, she said, “we were the hysterical librarians that nobody believed.”

The Times also recounts a specific instance of law enforcement perhaps overstepping when it comes to libraries.

[T]hree years ago, he recalled, a detective from Fairfield, Conn., who was investigating the case of a man who had taken hostages at a local university, threatening them with a bomb, called to inquire if the library could provide information about the man’s reading habits.

Mr. Golrick explained that if a patron returns materials on time, no record exists beyond five days of the transaction. He noted that if a book was still out or a fine owed, some records would exist, but that he would need a properly executed request.

“So I explained,” Mr. Golrick recalled, “if you really want to know, you need to get a legal subpoena. But I can’t guarantee you that there would be anything there.”

He said he never heard back from the detective.

Several editorial boards are also clearly in favor of protecting the improvements that would be made to the Patriot Act in the Senate reauthorization bill. Writes the Dallas Morning News: “Democracies survive on checks on government intrusion, a principle that the Senate has worked hard to protect and incorporate in its bill. Congress should renew the Patriot Act with the Senate’s safeguards.”

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