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Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
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Fax (262) 673-9746


May 23, 2005

Especially for "Conservative" Supporters --
Did You Know About This?

Many members and supporters of JPFO describe themselves as politically "conservative;" many also support President Bush and most of his policies. We are grateful for their support of JPFO's mission and we rely upon it to continue our work.

Since 2001, we have noticed that many conservative talk show hosts and commentators have dismissed any concerns about civil liberties problems with the USA Patriot Act. We at JPFO are always concerned about potential and actual violations of the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights, so we have been highly suspicious and critical of the Patriot Act. We have been disappointed that conservative media people have shown little or no interest in the civil liberties issues involved.

We heard commentators pooh-pooh the concerns that the FBI's new power to procure library records of patrons could lead to abuses and loss of freedom. One national talk show host would challenge callers: "Name me a single instance of federal agents snooping into library records!"

In a guest article appearing in the May 18, 2005 edition of USA Today, Ms. Joan Airoldi in Whatcom County, Washington, answered that challenge. Ms. Airoldi is the Director of the Whatcom County Library District. (www.wcls.org)

Ms. Airoldi opened her article:

"It was a moment that librarians had been dreading. On June 8, 2004, an FBI agent stopped at the Deming branch [of the Library] and requested a list of the people who had borrowed a biography of Osama bin Laden. We said no."

The Library had consulted their lawyer and done their homework, so they told the FBI that it would have to follow the proper procedures. About a week later, the FBI served a subpoena upon the Library, demanding a list of everyone who had borrowed that book since November 2001.

Ms. Airoldi explained the Library's decision to oppose the subpoena in court:

"It is our job to protect the right of people to obtain the books and other materials they need to form and express ideas. If the government can easily obtain records of the books that our patrons are borrowing, [the patrons] will not feel free to request the books they want."

Penetratingly, Ms. Airoldi put it: "Who would check out a biography of bin Laden knowing that this might attract the attention of the FBI?"

After the Library's legal challenge, the FBI withdrew its request. Ms. Airoldi learned, however, that under the Patriot Act, the FBI could go to a secret court to obtain a court order to obtain the borrowing records. By invoking "national security" as a reason, the FBI could obtain this order without having to explain whom they suspect of any crime or why the investigation is being undertaken. Under the Patriot Act, there is no direct way for anyone to challenge such an order. Librarians would be barred from even telling anyone about the order from the secret court.

Think again about this brave library director's question: Who would check out a book from the library if doing so would attract the FBI's attention?

If you believe that "I've got nothing to hide" is a sufficient answer, then you don't know very much about FBI investigations. The fact is, open FBI investigations are not narrow inquiries -- they probe into every detail, related or not, looking for evidence of some wrongdoing. You can't predict what word or deed might implicate you. You do not want to be under investigation by the FBI.

Incidentally, why did the FBI subpoena all of the borrowing records for the bin Laden biography? As it happens, there were two sentences scribbled in the margin of the book that said: "If the things I'm doing is considered a crime, then let history be a witness that I am a criminal. Hostility toward America is a religious duty and we hope to be rewarded by God."

Were these two sentences evidence that one of the book borrowers is a terrorist? Unlikely, for two reasons. First, we do not know that a registered borrower wrote the sentences. Second, those two sentences are nearly verbatim quotes from statements made by bin Laden himself in a 1998 interview. Thus, the two sentences do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the margin scribbler or any registered borrower -- anyone could write a bin Laden quote for any reason at any time.

If somebody else's margin scribble in a library book is enough to put you on the FBI's suspect list, then do you have more liberty or less? Secret courts with unreviewable court order powers -- are these more a feature of free countries or of police states? (While you're pondering those questions, click on our Alert about the National ID law -- http://www.jpfo.org/alert20050511.htm)

We salute Library Director Joan Airoldi's courage, and that of her Library's Board, in standing up for the rights of Americans. We challenge the conservative media community to applaud Ms. Airoldi also. Regretfully, we expect the conservative media folks to ignore the story totally, and that is a sad commentary indeed.

- The Liberty Crew

Sources:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-05-17- librarian-edit_x.htm or http://tinyurl.com/d5l6r

http://www.pen.org/page.php/prmID/810

http://www.wcls.org/privacyresolutiontosupportpatriotact6-04.htm or http://tinyurl.com/7po6a

To learn more about police state policies and their appearance in America, get and read: The State vs. The People, available at http://www.jpfo.org/books.htm


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