Life in an FBI muzzle is no fun. Two Connecticut librarians on Sunday described what it was like to be slapped with an FBI national security letter and accompanying gag order. It sounded like a spy movie or, gulp, something that happens under a repressive foreign government. Peter Chase and Barbara Bailey, librarians in Plainville, Connecticut, received an NSL to turn over computer records in their library on July 13, 2005. Unlike a suspected thousands of other people around the country, Chase, Bailey and two of their colleagues stood up to the Man and refused to comply, convinced that the feds had no right to intrude on anyone's privacy without a court order (NSLs don't require a judge's approval). That's when things turned ugly.
The four librarians under the gag order weren't allowed to talk to each other by phone. So they e-mailed. Later, they weren't allowed to e-mail.
After the ACLU took on the case and it went to court in Bridgeport, the librarians were not allowed to attend their own hearing. Instead, they had to watch it on closed circuit TV from a locked courtroom in Hartford, 60 miles away. "Our presence in the courtroom was declared a threat to national security," Chase said.
And yes... The story gets worse as you read further into it and find that the FBI started investigating those evilly-wordy, library-card-terrorizing, fundamental-reading- bookofascist librarians because they would not comply with the "National Security Letter" demands. It got so bad the ACLU "advised Chase to move to a safehouse."
The Bridgeport courts decided the librarians were correct but get a load of this crap:
This may be a month old story, but it bears repeating as we hear more about the further abuses of the criminal bush administration, their obstruction of justice, and their refusal to follow the basic rule of law at every turn.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) wrote an op-ed in USA Today that said:Once President Bush reauthorized the Patriot Act, the FBI lifted the librarians' gag order.
"Zero. That's the number of substantiated USA Patriot Act civil liberties violations. Extensive congressional oversight found no violations. Six reports by the Justice Department's independent inspector general, who is required to solicit and investigate any allegations of abuse, found no violations."
There is a way to stop the lunacy, ya know?