Trust me, baby

Letters to the Boston editor
By EDITORIAL  |  February 16, 2006

Harvey Silverglate is right that the American public is unconcerned with wiretapping because they think it is a small price to pay for physical safety and that, if they are doing nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear from wiretaps (see “Bush’s Real Motive,” February 10). I felt the same way, until the FBI yanked my boyfriend out of bed at four in the morning and repeated to him verbatim conversations he and I had about his reluctance to go to grad school because his parents threatened to disown him if he did not volunteer to go to Vietnam. This was in the bad old days before the 1978 FISA law, which at least made a president think twice about spying on political opponents.

If George W. Bush is telling the truth, why does he insist on circumventing FISA and Congress? Why have many in the Justice Department, including John Ashcroft, questioned the constitutionality of this activity? The president lied about why he wanted to invade Iraq. Why should we think he’s telling the truth about these wiretaps?

Carolyn Fuller

Library Power
I am writing in response to your item “Liberty at the Library” (February 3), about public computers demanded by the FBI and Newton police as part of an investigation of a bomb threat. The piece implies that the entire episode was an interchange between the FBI and the city’s mayor. You suggest that these officials asked the mayor for his permission, and that, “uncomfortable with the request, Cohen convened a group of advisers and attorneys and came up with a compromise.”

Where is the library director in this story? Anyone familiar with the role public libraries play as the guardians of the First Amendment can see that your story is missing a central player. About 15 police officers and three FBI agents showed up at the library demanding the computers. It was the library that refused to give up the computers without a court order. To state that this story is all about the city mayor, and the library just happened to be the place where it played out, does a grave disservice to the fundamental role libraries play in the freedom of information in our society. The Newton library director did exactly what she was supposed to do and has been trained to do. She was backed up by the town’s mayor and the town counsel. The FBI was able to get their warrant and proceed with their investigation. All is well that ends well, as your piece stated. But this story is about something more important than this one incident: the confidentiality of library records and who stands at the door to protect them.

Sharon McCarrell

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