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Justice Department Asks for Extension in Connecticut Case

The Department of Justice has filed an emergency motion with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for a full stay from District Court Judge Janet Hall’s September 9 decision to lift the gag order in a case involving a Connecticut library and the USA Patriot Act. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom told American Libraries that although the circuit court has not yet decided on the motion, it was likely to approve it. If so, the plaintiff librarian would be prohibited from openly commenting on discussions about the Patriot Act’s effect on libraries and privacy as Congress considers reauthorization of the act.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has launched a petition urging U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to stop preventing the plaintiff in the case from participating in the debate. “A decision by the Attorney General to lift the gag order would provide both Congress and the public with an opportunity to hear first-hand from a librarian served with a national security letter and finally allow a full and fair hearing from Congress about the use of such orders and the potential harm done to our First Amendment Rights,” Caldwell-Stone told AL. “Such a debate is crucial at a time when Congress is considering the renewal of the USA Patriot Act.”

Posted September 16, 2005.