Magazine article American Libraries

Student Fabricates Homeland Security Book-Watch Story

Magazine article American Libraries

Student Fabricates Homeland Security Book-Watch Story

Article excerpt

A University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth student admitted he invented a story about agents of the Department of Homeland Security visiting his parents' home because he had requested a book written by Mao Zedung through interlibrary loan. The unnamed senior tearfully confessed to the hoax after UMD history professor Brian Glyn Williams confronted him with inconsistencies in his story December 23, the New Bedford Standard-Times reported December 24.

The student, who maintained anonymity throughout the affair, had told both Williams and history professor Robert Pontbriand that the incident took place in late October or early November after he attempted to obtain a copy of the first English edition of the Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, published in Beijing in 1966 and popularly known in China as the "Little Red Book," for a class on communism.

The story broke in the December 17 Standard-Times as the result of an interview with Williams, who mentioned the incident as an example of government monitoring of academic research. "The student told me that the book was on a watch list, and that the books on this list had changing status," Williams told American Libraries. "Mao was on the list at the time, hence the visit, which was also related to his time abroad."

But the student's story began to unravel when he added new details--including a claim that agents had visited again the previous evening and gotten him and his parents to sign confidentiality agreements--in a December 22 interview with Williams, Pontbriand, and UMD spokesman John Hoey. The student added that the agents, whom he said were named Brushaev and Roberts, were dressed in black suits like in the film Men in Black.

UMD Library Dean Ann Montgomery Smith told AL that the student had not requested the book through the UMD interlibrary services as originally reported. …

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