Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Militant Librarian alert

My friend Charlie notes this incident in his blog:

After a credible terror threat to Brandeis University (in neighboring Waltham, Mass.) was traced to a public computer at the Newton Free Library on January 18th, the FBI and local police, eager to prevent a deadly criminal act and hoping to apprehend the perpetrator, rushed to the Newton Free Library to secure the computer on which the threats had been sent, with the possibility of identifying the nature of the threat and the person behind it.

Several buildings at Brandeis had been cleared, including an adjacent Waltham elementary school. So law enforcement officials were eager to make speedy headway in identifying both the perpetrator and the threat's credibility, and had quickly moved to secure evidence at the Newton library.

What they had not anticipated, however, was that their search would be abruptly sidetracked when Kathy Glick-Weil, the library's director, informed them that no one was searching anything without a warrant from a judge -- this, despite the obvious urgency to act in an instance when a perpetrator was fleeing, time was passing, and a potentially catastrophic incident became more imminent by the minute.

So while it's very tempting to acquiesce in the instance of law enforcement declaring the situation to be an emergency and demand information without a warrant, that's a very slippery slope, indeed. What constitutes an emergency that would waive the laws guarding confidentiality? Whose judgment call is that? And do we trust that person implicitly?

As this same friend has pointed out, we don't have to worry about a foreign power invading and taking away our civil rights. We'll do that all by ourselves.

Be glad there's a feisty librarian protecting your rights.


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