Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Connecticut Librarians Win Their Battle To Keep Library Records Private

This is a significant victory for all libraries and the people who use them:

The American Civil Liberties Union today declared victory in their legal battle with the FBI over a Connecticut library group's right to keep patron records private. After dropping their vehement defense of the gag provision accompanying the request, the FBI has now abandoned the demand all together.

"First the government abandoned the gag order that would have silenced four librarians for the rest of their lives, and now they've abandoned their demand for library records entirely," said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU. "While the government's real motives in this case have been questionable from the beginning, their decision to back down is a victory not just for librarians but for all Americans who value their privacy."

The Library Connection, a consortium of 26 Connecticut libraries, sought help from the ACLU when the FBI demanded patron records through a National Security Letter last summer. This controversial Patriot Act tool allows the government to demand, without court approval, records of people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. Anyone who receives such a demand is gagged from disclosing the mere existence of the request.

The librarians can now disclose the NSL they received, which has never before been released in full. The NSL shows that the FBI was seeking all records associated with a particular computer. The NSL was dated May 19, 2005, but Library Connection did not receive the NSL until July 13, 2005.

"We pursued this matter because librarians should protect the privacy of our patrons," said George Christian, Executive Director of Library Connection. "Everyone has the responsibility to make sure the government plays by the rules."

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