Monday, September 25, 2006

more on a connecticut hero; george christian

to me, HE is a real patriot. HE knows the constitution is more than a mere piece of paper

A Patriotic Act

By JUNE SANDRA NEAL September 24 2006
On Feb. 15, 2005, someone walked into a Connecticut library, sat down at a computer and used the Internet from 4 to 4:45 p.m.Five months later, two FBI agents walked into George Christian's Windsor office and handed him a letter. It demanded "any and all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person or entity related to" the library computer's IP address on that February day.To Christian, executive director of the Library Connection, the scene seemed a G-man version of the Odd Couple: one agent dressed nattily in a blazer and tie; the other gruff, in a knit muscle shirt.And though the atmosphere of the meeting was tense, Christian suspected the FBI's demand wasn't its Priority No. 1."It was addressed to the wrong person; it was dated May 19, 2005, and it referred to an event that had taken place six months ago."The document they handed Christian was a national security letter, a piece of the Patriot Act few people had heard of at the time.Did Christian understand, the agents asked, that he could discuss the letter with no one?"I said I did, but I would like to speak to my lawyer.""Fine, have him give me a call," one agent said, and gave Christian his business card.Even the agent apparently didn't know that the order he had handed Christian prohibited the library executive from discussing it with anyone - including his organization's board of directors, his wife or even his own attorney.Had the national security letter been issued to someone else, it might have attracted little attention or created much stir as its recipient complied with its terms. But for Christian, whose agency oversees computer and other services for a consortium of 27 libraries around the state, it was a boot on his neck.For one thing, he knew that Connecticut is one of 48 states with a statute expressly protecting the confidentiality of library users. Secondly, the letter struck at the core of Christian's definition of a library: "The nation's most democratic institution that supports a free exchange of information.".........

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