-------- Original Message --------
Subject: NEWS RELEASE: FBI Uses Patriot Act to Demand Information with
No Judicial Approval From Organization with Library Records
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 13:43:40 -0400
FBI Uses Patriot Act to Demand Information with No Judicial Approval
>From Organization with Library Records
ACLU Seeks Emergency Court Order to Lift Gag As Congress Prepares to
Make Patriot Act Permanent
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2005
Contact: Erica Pelletreau, 212-519-7829; 549-2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union today disclosed that the
FBI has used a controversial Patriot Act power to demand records from an
organization that 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 FBI demand was disclosed in a new lawsuit filed in
Connecticut, which remains under a heavy FBI gag order.
The ACLU is seeking an emergency court order to lift the gag so that its
client can participate in the public debate about the Patriot Act as
Congress prepares to reauthorize or amend it in September.
"Our client wants to tell the American public about the dangers of
allowing the FBI to demand library records without court approval," said
ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, the lead lawyer in the case.
"If our client could speak, he could explain why Congress should adopt
additional safeguards that would limit Patriot Act powers."
Papers reveal that the client, whose identity must remain a secret under
the gag, "strictly guards the confidentiality and privacy of its library
and Internet records." The client is a member of the American Library
The lawsuit challenges the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of
the Patriot Act, which authorizes the FBI to demand a range of personal
records without court approval, such as the identity of a person who has
visited a particular Web site on a library computer, or who has engaged
in anonymous speech on the Internet. The Patriot Act dramatically
expands the NSL power by permitting the FBI to demand records of people
who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.
The lawsuit, ACLU v. Gonzales, was filed on August 9, and is pending
before Judge Janet Hall of the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport,
Connecticut. It names as defendants Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,
FBI Director Robert Mueller, and an FBI official whose identity remains
under seal. Both the national ACLU and its Connecticut branch said they
were forced to file the lawsuit initially under seal to avoid penalties
for violating the gag provision, which they are challenging on First
The court has set an emergency hearing for Wednesday, August 31, 2005 on
the ACLU's request to lift the gag.
Whether the Patriot Act has been used to obtain information about
library patrons has been a flashpoint in the Patriot Act debate. The
government has repeatedly dismissed the concerns of librarians that the
act could force them to violate their ethical responsibility to protect
the privacy of library users. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft
even called these concerns about the Patriot Act "baseless hysteria."
Congress is currently undertaking efforts to reauthorize the Patriot
Act, with both the House and Senate having passed different versions of
legislation before adjourning for the August recess. While the ACLU has
not endorsed either bill, it has said the Senate bill takes steps in the
"As Congress comes back to work out the differences in the House and
Senate bills to reauthorize the Patriot Act, a commitment to freedom
must prevail," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU
Washington Legislative Office. "The more we learn about the Patriot
Act, the clearer it is that too much power was granted to the
government, with too few safeguards against abuse. While neither
reauthorization bill is perfect, we call on Congress to use the Senate
bill as its guide as it reconsiders the Patriot Act."
In an earlier ACLU lawsuit challenging the NSL power, a federal court
issued a landmark decision in September 2004 striking down the NSL
statute, saying that "democracy abhors undue secrecy." The court held
that the NSL law violates the First and Fourth Amendments, but allowed
the law to stand while the government is appealing the decision.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is expected to
hear the government's appeal of that lawsuit this fall. The government
recently asked the court to delay the appeal while Congress debates
reauthorization of the Patriot Act. However, the ACLU opposes any
delay, citing the need for urgent court action so that its John Doe
client in the first lawsuit can also participate in the public debate.
"Judicial review is a key part to our system of checks and balances,"
said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "As we consider
expanding and extending the Patriot Act, this case shows us what might
become routine if we don't fix the law."
The ACLU has created a special Web page on its National Security Letter
litigation, which includes links to today's legal papers, online at
Attorneys in the case are Beeson, Jameel Jaffer and Melissa Goodman of
the national ACLU and Annette M. Lamoreaux of the ACLU of Connecticut.
The redacted version of the ACLU's complaint is available online at: