At least, that’s my interpretation of their decision to give up some column-inches on the op-ed page today to Richard Cravatts, in whose Orwellian apologia today he offers to interpret the Constitution and the Patriot Act for members of the American Library Association too dumb to understand that, as our President has already concluded, if you have to ask for a warrant, then the terrorists have already won: When librarians protect terrorists [pdf]
NEWTON, WHICH this year was named as the country’s safest town, can now add a second designation to its Chamber of Commerce brochures: It can boast of being a town that is not only safe for its residents but which also protects the privacy rights of would-be terrorists who wish to use its library. After a credible terror threat to Brandeis University was traced to a public computer at the Newton Free Library on Jan. 18, the FBI and local police rushed to secure the computer, with the possibility of identifying the nature of the threat and the person behind it.
What law enforcement had not anticipated, however, was that their pressing search would be abruptly sidetracked when Kathy Glick-Weil, the library’s director, informed them that no one was searching anything without a warrant.
Glick-Weil, like many of her counterparts who are members of the American Library Association (ALA), was well-prepared to stymie the investigative efforts of government officials. In fact, since the passing of the Patriot Act and its Section 215, which governs searching in libraries and bookstores, librarians have been apoplectic at the notion that government officials, in their view, now have authority to kick through library doors and randomly monitor the reading and Internet surfing habits of their patrons.
The ALA’s sentiments, and Glick-Weil’s decision to become a ”human shield” for 10 precious hours while the FBI waited to secure a warrant and seize the computer, would be very noble — save for one important point: They are based on a misunderstanding of both Section 215 of the Patriot Act as well as the protections provided in the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
I look forward to the day that Mr. Cravatts agrees to allow a warrantless search of his office, or his home, or his car. Until then, thank goodness for the diligence of the ALA, and kudos to Kathy Glick-Weil!!!
WHILE I couldn’t agree less with Richard Cravatts’s take on the enforcement of the laws concerning privacy, I will agree with his contention that librarians know the Dewey Decimal System. That a librarian’s professional training concentrates on mastering the use of the system is quite off the mark, however, and as enlightened a concept in the 21st century as starting a fire with a stone and a spark. In any event, should he himself ever need to be catalogued, I’ve got a spot for him on the shelf at 621.945. That would be the 620s for Engineering, 621.9 for Tools and Fabricating Equipment, and, specifically, 621.945 for Boring Tools.