Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy

By Susan N. Herman | Go to book overview
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8.
Gagging the Librarians

The Patriot Act affects real lives and even an ordinary American
like me can end up being targeted by the FBI
.—Barbara Bailey,
President, Library Connection Inc.; Director, Welles-Turner Memorial
Library, Glastonbury, Connecticut (2006)

The Patriot Act inverts the constitutional requirement that people’s
lives be private and the work of government officials be public; it
instead crafts a set of conditions in which our inner lives become
transparent and the workings of the government become opaque.
Either one of these outcomes would imperil democracy; together
they not only injure the country but also cut off the avenues of
repair
.—Elaine Scarry (2004)1


The Library Connection

George Christian isn’t sure if it’s accurate to call him a librarian. As Executive Director of Library Connection of Connecticut, he works with computer systems in the libraries that belong to his consortium. It is certainly accurate to call him a true patriot. When he had an unexpected brush with the War on Terror, he put his personal comfort and convenience aside and stood up for principle—the principles of First Amendment freedom of speech and of democracy itself.

It all started on July 13, 2005, when George was handed a National Security Letter, on FBI letterhead:

Under the authority of Executive Order 12333, dated December 4,
1981, and pursuant to Title 18, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section
2709 (as amended October 26, 2001), you are hereby directed to
provide to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) any or all sub-
scriber information, billing information and access logs of any per-
son or entity related to the following: IP address 216.47.180.118,
Date: 2/16/2005; Time: 16:00 to 16:45 PM EST.

-136-

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