Resolution to Commend the John Does of the Library Connection
Those of us who joined ALA President Michael Gorman at our program "Meet John Doe" learned firsthand from George Christian, Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, and Janet Nocek—the four John Does of Doe v. Gonzalez—that, indeed, the government did—and very likely does—employ Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Section 505, as many of us know by now, authorizes the FBI to demand records without prior court approval and also forbids, or "gags," anyone who receives an National Security Letter (NSL) from telling anyone else about receiving it.
Because they questioned both the constitutionality of having to violate library users' privacy rights and their inability to talk about it, Christian, Bailey, Chase, and Nocek sought legal assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU filed suit on behalf of the librarians, asking the court to quash the NSL and enjoin the gag order.
For almost a year, the ACLU fought to lift the gag order, challenging the government's power under Section 505 to silence the four librarians during a time of national debate on the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act. In May 2006, the government withdrew its objection to the four librarians' revealing their identity, which made it possible for them to appear at our program.
Informing President Gorman that he had a surprise announcement about the Doe case for program attendees, Chase told the audience that as of June 26, 2006, the government has totally abandoned the gag order that would have silenced the Does—Christian, Bailey, Chase, and Nocek—completely for the rest of their lives, and that the government has abandoned its demand for the Library Connection user records it sought through Section 505.
"While the government's real motives in this case have been questionable from the beginning," said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU, "their decision to back down is a victory not just for librarians but for all Americans who value their privacy."
The Intellectual Freedom Committee joins our colleagues and all others who value privacy as an eternal value in thanking George Christian, Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, and Janet Nocek for their courageous personal and professional stand to defend intellectual freedom in libraries.
Therefore, the IFC urges Council to adopt this resolution to commend the stand of our courageous colleagues, and moves the adoption of "Resolution to Commend the John Does of the Library Connection" (attached as CD#19.5 to the AC 2006 IFC Report to Council):
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association strongly commend the stand of the Connecticut John Does—George Christian, Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, and Janet Nocek—in their successful legal battle to defend the privacy of library user records; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association condemn the use of National Security Letters to demand any library records; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association reaffirm its opposition to sections of the USA PATRIOT Act that infringe on library patrons' ability to access library services without privacy safeguards.
Adopted by the ALA Council, unanimously, on Wednesday, June 28, 2006