News for the University of Illinois Community

« Lancet Calls for Publisher to Cut Ties with International Arms Trade | Main | UK losing £1.5 billion due to limited access to research outputs: university prof »

September 12, 2005

Organization That Received Patriot Act Letter May Identify Itself in Public, Judge Rules

A Connecticut organization that received an order from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to turn over the records of library patrons should be allowed to identify itself publicly, a federal judge ruled on Friday. The FBI issued the order under a provision of the USA Patriot Act, a controversial law intended to help prevent domestic terrorism. Despite Friday's ruling, the name of the Connecticut organization may not be known until next week at the earliest. The judge hearing the official's challenge to the act, Janet C. Hall of the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Conn., has given the government an opportunity to appeal her decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which government officials have indicated they will do. If the appeals court does not overturn Judge Hall's ruling by September 20, the organization can be identified. Court papers refer to the organization only as "John Doe." The documents also show that the organization is an active member of the American Library Association and the Connecticut Library Association. The order that the Connecticut group received is called a national-security letter and is similar to a subpoena. It allows the FBI to demand that libraries, businesses, colleges, and "electronic service providers" hand over the records of their clients. Recipients of the letters are not allowed to tell anyone about them. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the Connecticut organization, has challenged the constitutionality of the letter the group received, arguing that the government has not demonstrated a compelling need for the library records and that the order prevents the organization from speaking freely about the Patriot Act. Chronicle of Higher Education 9/12/05

Posted by P. Kaufman at September 12, 2005 7:27 AM