[Videolib] Ashcroft Mocks Librarians and Others...

Bonnie Brown (bonnie.brown@nyu.edu)
Thu, 18 Sep 2003 15:27:20 -0400

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If so=2C my apologies=2E=26nbsp=3B=26nbsp=3BI thought that many of you m=
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=3CP=3E=3CFONT size=3D3=3EBonnie Brown -=26nbsp=3BAvery Fisher Center/Bob=
st Library=3C/FONT=3E=3C/P=3E=3C/H2=3E
=3CH2=3EAshcroft Mocks Librarians and Others Who Oppose Parts of Countert=
errorism Law=3C/H2=3E=3C/NYT=5FHEADLINE=3E=3C!--Article with Big Photo st=
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TON=2C Sept=2E 15 =97 Attorney General John Ashcroft today accused the co=
untry=27s biggest library association and other critics of fueling =22bas=
eless hysteria=22 about the government=27s ability to pry into the public=
=27s reading habits=2E =3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EIn an unusually pointed attack as part of his latest speech in def=
ense of the Bush administration=27s counterterrorism initiatives=2C Mr=2E=
Ashcroft mocked and condemned the American Library Association and other=
Justice Department critics for believing that the F=2EB=2EI=2E wants to =
know =22how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel=2E=22=3C/P=
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=3CP=3EThe association=2C which has argued for months that the government=
=27s new antiterrorism powers risk encroaching on the privacy of library =
users=2C took some satisfaction from the broadside=2E =3C/P=3E
=3CP=3E=22If he=27s coming after us so specifically=2C we must be having =
an impact=2C=22 said Emily Sheketoff=2C executive director of the library=
association=27s Washington office=2E =3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EMark Corallo=2C a spokesman for the department=2C said the speech =
was intended not as an attack on librarians=2C but on groups like the Ame=
rican Civil Liberties Union and politicians who he said had persuaded lib=
rarians to mistrust the government=2E=3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EThe American Librarian Association =22has been somewhat duped by t=
hose who are ideologically opposed to the Patriot Act=2C=22 Mr=2E Corallo=
said=2E=3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EMr=2E Ashcroft=27s remarks=2C he said=2C =22should be seen as a ja=
b at those who would mislead librarians and the general public into belie=
ving the absurd=2C that the F=2EB=2EI=2E is running around monitoring lib=
raries instead of going after terrorists=2E=22=3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EMr=2E Ashcroft=27s speech was his 17th in the last month in defens=
e of the sweeping counterterrorism act passed after the Sept=2E 11 attack=
s and under increasing criticism for those who contend that it gives the =
government too much power=2E=3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EBut in departing from his usual remarks=2C Mr=2E Ashcroft dwelled =
today much more expansively on the government=27s powers under the legisl=
ation to demand access to library records in searching for terrorists=2E =
=3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EThat issue has helped galvanize opposition to the act from librari=
es nationwide and from some 160 communities that have protested the law a=
s too far-reaching=2E=3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EIt is not known how many times federal agents have actually used t=
he law to gain access to library records because that information is clas=
sified=2E Even the association said it did not know because libraries ser=
ved with demands for such records are bound by a gag order=2E=3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EMr=2E Ashcroft said critics had tried to persuade the public that =
the F=2EB=2EI=2E was monitoring libraries to =22ask every person exiting =
the library=2C =60Why were you at the library=3F What were you reading=3F=
Did you see anything suspicious=3F=27 =22=3C/P=3E
=3CP=3EThe Justice Department=2C Mr=2E Ashcroft said=2C =22has no interes=
t in your reading habits=2E Tracking reading habits would betray our high=
regard for the First Amendment=2E And even if someone in government want=
ed to do so=2C it would represent an impossible workload and a waste of l=
aw enforcement resources=2E=22=3C/P=3E
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