With Bush As President, We Have Lost A Lot Of Our Freedom

by James Glaser
June 7, 2006

We now have a span of time to look at with George Bush as President. We can see changes in the way we live and the freedoms we have. Try traveling by air and you will see what I mean.

Here is a good example. Right after the 9/11 attack the Bush administration had the Patriot Act all ready to go, and Congress passed it without even having the bill to read.

The only saving thing Congress did was to put in a "sunset" clause in the bill, and this year they had to vote on it again. Americans opposed to much of the bill were up for a good debate, but the Bush administration put a stop to that. If anyone wanted to say anything about what was wrong with the Act, the Bush administration would get a court to put out a gag order to stop any debate on national security grounds.

Think back and remember how the FBI and the Justice Department claimed the provision on libraries was never used. Librarians knew better, but a gag order stopped them from testifying before Congress. Now the Patriotic act has been passed again, the Justice has backed off the gag order, and the librarians can talk about it. Of course now it is too late.

Here is what the Hartford Courant wrote:

June 6 2006

It's good to know that the four Hartford-area librarians who led the nation in the first challenge of an FBI order to turn over patrons' Internet records under the USA Patriot Act finally have faces.

Without the benefit of a court order, the FBI used its sweeping powers under the Patriot Act to demand the records. That's unsettling enough. That the FBI also interpreted the post-9/11 anti-terrorism statute to mean it could "cloak" those orders—preventing the librarians from even discussing the matter with colleagues or their own library boards—is creepy and, ultimately, un-American.

So with the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union, the librarians fought back. They won in U.S. District Court with a ruling from Judge Janet C. Hall, who rightly found that the gag order violated the First Amendment right to free speech. But the federal government resisted, taking the case to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. In the meantime, members of Congress (using their First Amendment freedoms) argued the question whether the act, which had sunset provisions, should be extended. In the course of that debate, it adopted amendments that, in the opinion of the appeals court, rendered the librarians' case moot.

Case dismissed.

And so last week, during a press conference in the ACLU's New York City offices, Connecticut's four librarians were free to emerge from the shadowy constraints of the Patriot Act and into the limelight. They are George Christian, executive director of Library Connection; Peter Chase, director of the Plainville Public Library; Janet Nocek, director of the Portland Public Library; and Barbara Bailey, director of Welles-Turner Memorial Library in Glastonbury.

They spoke of their frustration at not being able to discuss the personal aspects of the Patriot Act even as Congress debated it in the abstract. They described the stunning impact of being ordered by the government to violate their own professional duties, the confidences of the people they serve, their principles and their constitutional rights (Library Connection, the inter-library organization that was the target of the FBI's order, is still holding fast to the records). On Tuesday, though, they did accomplish one thing. They gave freedom a face.

Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant

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