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FBI Director’s Comments to Senate Reveal Continued Hostility Toward Libraries, Privacy

In a written response to the U.S. Senate, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert S. Mueller III again demonstrated that the Department of Justice fails to comprehend the role of libraries and the importance of privacy in the United States.

The FBI submitted Mueller’s answers in response to written questions that followed the May 2, 2006, hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary regarding FBI oversight. One of the questions posed by Committee Chairman Arlen Specter challenged the Director to clarify why libraries should be subject to National Security Letters (NSLs) when the law as written and clarified by the Senate exempts them.

“It’s been made clear on several occasions that the Senate intends for libraries to be protected,” said ALA President Leslie Burger, “but the FBI willfully ignores the intent and maintains its correctness in the law.”

“The states have passed laws protecting the privacy of library patrons, the Senate — which wrote the law — has stated that libraries are exempt, and the courts have ruled in that same vein,” Burger continued. “Why can’t this Justice Department respect the wishes of U.S. citizens and the privacy of library patrons?”

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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