February 11, 2006

OBJECTIVELY PRO-TERROR (via Robert Schwartz):

Madame Librarian: Defending terrorists' privacy while ignoring real repression. (Opinion Journal, February 10, 2006)

To hear the ALA talk, librarians are the last bulwark defending our most cherished civil liberties against government assault. Yet two recent examples show again that self-anointed guardians of the public good can be very selective about the people, and rights, they choose to protect.

One example came from Newton, Mass., on Jan. 18, after someone used a public-library computer to email a terrorist-attack threat to Brandeis University. Many school buildings were evacuated, and FBI agents rushed to the library hoping to track down the email sender in time to prevent an attack. Once there, however, they were held off for some nine hours by library director Kathy Glick-Weil--because they didn't have a warrant. Newton's mayor later praised Ms. Glick-Weil for "protecting the sense of privacy of many, many innocent users of the computers." More important, it seems, than protecting the lives of many, many innocent people who could have died if the threat had turned out to be imminent.

More revealing than a single librarian's awful judgment is the ALA's forked tongue when it claims to defend all library freedoms. Since 1998, Cuban authorities have arrested and imprisoned citizens who operate "independent libraries," and destroyed their collections. Often based in houses, these libraries provide books and other information, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, considered criminal by the Communist dictatorship.

Human-rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have condemned the repression and called for the librarians' release. Yet the ALA refuses to even acknowledge their suffering Cuban counterparts. It apparently accepts the Cuban government's assertion that "the dissidents" don't qualify as librarians and that freedom of information flourishes on the island.

A cat jumped out of the bag at the ALA's January meeting in San Antonio, though, when keynote speaker and Romanian-born author Andrei Codrescu blasted the organization for abandoning the independent librarians. "Is this the same American Library Association that stands against censorship and for freedom of expression everywhere?" To add insult to injury for apoplectic ALA leaders, a subsequent informal poll of the rank-and-file in an electronic newsletter suggested that 75% want the organization to stand up for the Cubans.

On Sunday, ALA President Michael Gorman emailed the newsletter's editor to say that "we would be better off without these polls."

As Brother Schwartz points out, no one has yet made a coherent argument of why someone using a public computer in a public facility has any reasonable expectation of privacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 11, 2006 8:49 PM

Usually a government facility, which just makes the whole thing even more bizarre: the right to use the government's computer without the government knowing.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 11, 2006 9:13 PM

Ms. Glick-Weil "held off" the FBI for 9 hours? Did they offer her a job at the Defense Dept. afterwards? Preferably in the Special Forces.

What exactly did she do? Read modern philosophy to them? Throw Proust at them?

Ye Gods.

Posted by: ratbert at February 11, 2006 9:25 PM

The FBI should've come prepared for the likes of this Glick creature -- ironicly the last name of a guy I went to college with who was one of the heroes of the flight that went down in Penn.

figure a little baggie of white powder in plain sight on her desk would've given them the pretext to cuff her and throw her in the back of a squad car.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 11, 2006 10:05 PM

a terrorist with a sense of humor would plant a bomb in this library, send the threat, and then sit back for the show...

Posted by: toe at February 11, 2006 11:34 PM

Aren't public librarians technically government employees? If government monitoring what we read is so horrible, why do we make exceptions for certain government officials, who--for all anyone knows--could be FBI and NSA agents working undercover?

In the year 2000, I worked part-time as a census taker. I will never forget how many people truly feared we would obtain information that other government agencies already had.

Posted by: Vince at February 12, 2006 1:33 AM

It's rather obvious that the counter argument is that to the extent that the user of the library feels his "research" will cause him to be placed under suspicion then total beneficial research will lessen and we will all become blitering idiots.

Valiant librarians are right there, at the ramparts fighting for truth, justice and the American way. So a few thousand dead and maimed is mere detail. As to the Cubans, well er.. further research is needed.

Posted by: h-man at February 12, 2006 6:31 AM


What's the value of suspicious research?

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2006 7:51 AM

Jim sez: "The FBI should have come prepared..."

How about with a warrant.

So she demanded proper paperwork before she handed over the computer. What did they expect - flexibility? Haven't they ever met a librarian before?

I bet she made them whisper the whole time they wre there too.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at February 12, 2006 10:11 AM

Google the story Ralph. It took the police hours to get the warrant.

Is that really your position? That in a possible terrorist bombing, when minutes are of the essence, paperwork needs to be filled out, a judge found, etc.?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 12, 2006 1:16 PM

Why would the police need a warrant to take public property. I should think that proper ID and a receipt would be sufficent.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 12, 2006 2:32 PM

Liberals like to pretend that John Ashcroft gives a rat's ass how many times they checked out Chomsky's latest screed. It makes them feel all revolutionary and stuff. And it makes them feel like victims. Cos in Wingnuttia, if you're not a victim, you're nobody.

For the record, Clarence Thomas is the only American whose borrowing records were seized for purely political purposes.

And why do the same liberals who insist on "Fragrance-Free"-zones lest their delicate olfactory sensibilities be offended also insist on the rights of urine-soaked bums to camp out in public libraries?

Posted by: Noel at February 12, 2006 11:59 PM