ALA Joins Challenge to Patriot Act in U.S. Supreme Court

Contact:Larra Clark
ALA Media Relations Manager
312-280-5043
lclark@ala.org

Bernadette Murphy
Washington Communications Director
(202) 628-8410
bmurphy@alawash.org
For Immediate Release
October 4, 2005

ALA joins challenge to Patriot Act in U.S. Supreme Court

CHICAGO – Today, the American Library Association (ALA) and the Freedom to Read Foundation joined with the Association of American Publishers and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to file an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court supporting “John Doe,” an ALA member who is challenging Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Act with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The brief emphasizes the fact that a library already has been identified in a September 21 New York Times story, which stated: “A search of a court-operated Web site offered a pointer to the plaintiffs' identity. There, a case numbered 3:2005cv01256 is listed under the caption, “Library Connection Inc. v. Attorney General.”

The ALA brief asserts: “The speculation highlights the absurdity of the permanent gag order, and puts an ALA member in an untenable bind. With this report in the public domain, the gag order both serves an even less important interest and causes even greater First Amendment harm that this Court must remedy.”

The brief supports the ACLU motion before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking an emergency court order to lift the FBI gag order imposed on Doe so that the plaintiff, an actual recipient of a National Security Letter, can participate in the public debate as Congress prepares to reauthorize or amend the PATRIOT Act in the coming weeks.

“Doe is perhaps the most important voice in the current debate over the USA PATRIOT Act,” said ALA President Michael Gorman. “It is essential that the Supreme Court vacate the stay barring Doe from speaking to Congress and the American people about his experience.”

Section 505 authorizes the FBI to use National Security Letters, a form of administrative subpoena, to demand a wide range of personal records, including library records, without court approval or judicial supervision, permitting the FBI to demand a library user's records without showing that the library user is suspected of wrongdoing. Those who receive an NSL are subject to an automatic, permanent gag order and are required to keep silent.

U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall previously ruled that disclosure of the recipient’s identity would jeopardize neither national security nor the investigation. The federal government has appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.