The federal government dropped its request under the Patriot Act for a library patrons’ computer records Monday saying it had discovered the potential terror threat it wanted to investigate was without merit.“Ultimately, the FBI was able to investigate and over time, discount the threat that was transmitted over this computer that was part of the Library Connection’s network,” John Miller, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, said in a press release Monday.
The Library Connection, a consortium that provides back office support to 26 Connecticut libraries, turned for help from the ACLU when the FBI demanded patron records through a National Security Letter last June. A “National Security Letter” authorizes the FBI to demand records without prior court approval. Anyone who receives an NSL is forbidden, or “gagged,” from telling anyone about the record demand. “First the government abandoned the gag order that would have silenced four librarians for the rest of their lives, and now they’ve abandoned their demand for library records entirely,” said Ann Beeson, ACLU associate legal director. “While the government’s real motives in this case have been questionable from the beginning, their decision to back down is a victory not just for librarians but for all Americans who value their privacy.” George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, Inc. in Windsor said, “The burden on me has finally been lifted, but for Americans who were seeking an honest debate in Congress, this is too little, too late.” Click here to read the National Security Letter sent by the FBI last summer. And here for the FBI press release and here for the ACLU press release.