Librarians Describe Life Under an FBI Gag Order

By Luke O’Brien, Wired

Life in an FBI muzzle is no fun. Two Connecticut librarians on Sunday described what it was like to be slapped with an FBI national security letter and accompanying gag order. It sounded like a spy movie or, gulp, something that happens under a repressive foreign government. Peter Chase and Barbara Bailey, librarians in Plainville, Connecticut, received an NSL to turn over computer records in their library on July 13, 2005. Unlike a suspected thousands of other people around the country, Chase, Bailey and two of their colleagues stood up to the Man and refused to comply, convinced that the feds had no right to intrude on anyone’s privacy without a court order (NSLs don’t require a judge’s approval). That’s when things turned ugly.

The four librarians under the gag order weren’t allowed to talk to each other by phone. So they e-mailed. Later, they weren’t allowed to e-mail.

After the ACLU took on the case and it went to court in Bridgeport, the librarians were not allowed to attend their own hearing. Instead, they had to watch it on closed circuit TV from a locked courtroom in Hartford, 60 miles away. “Our presence in the courtroom was declared a threat to national security,” Chase said.

(Original Article)


  1. If I couldn’t do email, I’d use MSN or likewise service. If I couldn’t do MSN, I’d write bloody snail mail. If I couldn’t write snail mail, I’d meet with them in person.

    They can’t attend their own hearing because it’s a threat to national security? Hello, FBI? It’s Stalin calling, he’s got a few tips for you on how you handle people who just won’t shut the fuck up.

    The land of the free. Hah!

  2. This is happening more than we realize and all in the name of security. I hope the next administration takes some action against the Patriot act.

  3. At least you got a trial and a review of the evidence. They’re still just chipping away. Soon there will be none of that. So I guess you’re kind of lucky.

  4. How many people think we still live in a free country? If you raised your hand you really need to wake up.

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