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Commentary :: Human Rights
BTL:Librarians Who Challenged Patriot Act Win Right To Speak Out
09 Jun 2006
Interview with George Christian, executive director of the Library Connection in Windsor, Conn. conducted by Between the Lines' Scott Harris
Librarians Who Challenged Patriot Act Win Right To Speak Out

Interview with George Christian, executive director of the Library Connection in Windsor, Conn. conducted by Scott Harris

George Christian, executive director of the Library Connection in Windsor, Conn. received an ominous call, and later a "national security letter" from the FBI last summer demanding the records of library patrons related to a federal investigation. "National Security Letters," established under the post 9/11 USA Patriot Act, authorized the FBI to secretly obtain credit and library records without judicial oversight and regardless of the target's involvement in illegal activity. The provision also imposes a gag rule on those served with the letters. Some 30,000 national security letters are issued by the government each year.

Christian and three officers from his organization, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, decided to challenge the government's right to silence their ability to publicly express opposition to the Patriot Act. In September 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall ruled in favor of the librarians, collectively known then as "John Doe." She said, the law, "has the practical effect of silencing individuals with a constitutionally protected interest in speech and whose voices are particularly important in an ongoing national debate about the intrusion of government authority into individual lives." However, Judge Hall's ruling was put on hold by a Justice Department appeal. But, in late May a three-judge panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the government's petition and let Judge Hall's ruling stand -- allowing the librarians to speak out for the first time.

Although Congress revised portions of the Patriot Act, many civil libertarians continue to see dangers in the legislation. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with George Christian of the Library Connection about why his group challenged the Patriot Act, and his concern over the erosion of civil liberties in America.

For more information on challenges to the USA Patriot Act, contact the American Library Association by calling 1-(800) 545-2433 or visit their Web site at:

Related links:

* American Civil Liberties Union at
* "Library Connection is "John Doe"- Board speaks about NSL order for library records,"American Library Association press release, May 30, 2006

LISTEN to this week's half-hour program of Between The Lines by clicking on one of the links below:
"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit:
"Between the Lines," WPKN 89.5 FM's weekly radio news magazine can be heard Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. ET; Wednesdays at 8 a.m. ET and Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET (Wednesday's show airs at 7:30 a.m. ET during fundraising months of April and October).
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Weekly Summary" which features a RealAudio link to the week's program for Between The Lines, send an email to btlsummary-subscribe (at)
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Q&A" which features a RealAudio link and weekly transcript to one of the interviews featured on Between The Lines, send an email to btlqa-subscribe (at)
betweenthelines (at)
Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
©2006 Between The Lines. All Rights Reserved.
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Re: BTL:Librarians Who Challenged Patriot Act Win Right To Speak Out
09 Jun 2006
Exactly what part of the Patriot Act are you concerned with? Please site to specific chapters and paragraphs.