The anti-american, terrorists supporting scum on the left.

ACLU Sues FBI over Library Records

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to block the FBI from obtaining records from an organization possessing information about library patrons.

The civil liberties advocacy group released a government-censored version of the lawsuit yesterday. The case originally was filed under seal Aug. 9 in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Conn., because the law under which the FBI acted bars the organization or its attorneys from "disclosing to any person" that the FBI has demanded information.

ACLU Associate Legal Director Anne Beeson said the FBI and Justice Department had censored the document and allowed release of that version.

The ACLU said its client "possesses a wide array of sensitive information about library patrons, including information about the reading materials borrowed by library patrons and about Internet usage by library patrons."

The censored document makes clear that the client is a member of the American Library Association.

The document strongly suggests that the client is a library or library system and its manager. But because of provisions of the law used by the FBI and the fact that some businesses that supply libraries are members of the library association, it was at least possible that the client is a business that provides Internet access to a library system. Beeson said the government would not allow her to clarify that.

U.S. District Judge Janet Hall has scheduled a hearing Wednesday in Bridgeport on the group's request to lift the gag order, so its client can participate in debate over the Patriot Act, which Congress is considering reauthorizing.

"Our client wants to tell the American public about the dangers of allowing the FBI to demand library records without court approval," Beeson said. "If our client could speak, he could explain why Congress should adopt additional safeguards that would limit Patriot Act powers."

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller declined to comment on the ACLU lawsuit or on the number of such requests the government has made. The FBI also declined to comment.

With key information blacked out, the released document reveals very little of the underlying case. It says that on an undisclosed date, the FBI delivered what is known as a National Security Letter to the ACLU's client, demanding "any and all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person or entity related to" something or someone that is blacked out. It said the information is relevant to an investigation of terrorism or spying.

Issued by the FBI without review by a judge, National Security Letters were authorized in 1986 by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. They are used to obtain electronic records from "electronic communications service providers." Such providers are not limited to Internet service companies but now also include universities, public interest organizations and almost all libraries, because most provide access to the Internet.

The original act allowed the FBI to get records of a person or group suspected of acting on behalf of a foreign power or, under 1993 amendments, the records of someone thought to be communicating with such a foreign agent about international terrorism.

The Patriot Act in 2001 removed the requirement that the records sought be those of someone under suspicion. Now, an innocent person's records can be obtained if the FBI considers them relevant to a terrorism or spying investigation.

Last September, in another ACLU lawsuit, a federal judge in New York struck down this provision of the law as unconstitutional under the First and Fourth Amendments, on grounds that it restrains free speech and bars or deters judicial challenges to government searches. That ruling is suspended pending an appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Because this Patriot Act provision was enacted permanently in 2001, it was not part of Congress' debate this summer over extension of some Patriot Act provisions.