From: weavermt@YAHOO.COM (Tim Weaver)
Subject: Fw: The FBI Has Bugged Our Public  Libraries
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 08:36:56 -0800

The first story says the FBI is placing monitoring software on the
computers of at least one town.  The second is a story where the FBI says,
"No, we're not doing that", with agreement by the head librarian.

Hmmm...didn't the FBI also say they used no pyrotechnic rounds at Waco?  I
somehow find the FBI's claims dubious at best.


- - - -


The FBI Has Bugged Our Public Libraries
Bill Olds

November 3 2002

Some reports say the FBI is snooping in the libraries. Is that really

Yes. I have uncovered information that persuades me that the Federal
Bureau of Investigation has bugged the computers at the Hartford Public
Library. And it's probable that other libraries around the state have
also been bugged. It's an effort by the FBI to obtain leads that it
believes may lead them to terrorists.

Many members of the public regularly use computers in libraries to access
the Internet for research purposes or to locate information about
particular interests. It's also not uncommon for students and others to
communicate with friends and relatives through e-mail from there.

The FBI system apparently involves the installation of special software on
the computers that lets the FBI copy a person's use of the Internet and
their e-mail messages. (Don't ask me how I know about this because I can't
reveal how I was able to collect the information.) Members of the public
who use the library have not been informed that the government is watching
their activities. It's not just the computers. Circulation  lists that
show which books someone borrowed are also accessible to the  government.

What are the Hartford librarians saying?

"I can't disclose that we were presented with anything," said Louise
Blalock, Hartford's head librarian.

I asked Mary W. Billings, the library's technical services manager, if the
FBI had given her a subpoena or a court order for library information.
Her response: "I cannot answer that question."

She did confirm that in recent months the FBI made two separate visits to
the Hartford Library, and there were discussions about "computer-related
information." On one visit, an agent asked to speak to the library staff
- a request that was turned down.

Interestingly, Billings said, "The library is now working on a public
notice that it can't guarantee that there isn't third-party monitoring"
for people who use its computers. A library staffer also remarked, "You
know there is software that can grab everybody's Internet use."

I know my librarian, and I believe she would tell me if the government
were tracking my computer use at the library. Don't you agree?

No way. There's a gag order. When the FBI uses a court order or a subpoena
to gain access to library computers or a list of the names of people who
have borrowed certain books, librarians can't tell anyone - not even other
librarians or you. They face a stiff federal penalty if they do.
It's unfair that librarians should be placed in such a position.

Does this mean that when I use the library's computer to do research for
college papers on Saudi Arabia or Islam, the FBI could be following  my
steps on the Internet?

Very possible. Of course, it may depend on which library you visit. And
there's no way you're going to be able to find out. The librarians can't
tell you, and you're not going to spot the special software in the
computers. Even if the software hasn't been installed, there's a back
door for the FBI to tap in through. The Internet service providers
(businesses located elsewhere) are required to cooperate with the
authorities, and spy software can be installed at that end.

But isn't this snooping only going to be used against people suspected of
being terrorists?

That's not how it works. It can check on everyone who uses the bugged
computers. The rules allow this kind of surveillance even if someone is
not suspected of being a terrorist or under any kind of suspicion.

Is there a state law that protects my privacy in the library?

Yes. Circulation records must be kept confidential. However, a new federal
law - the U.S. Patriot Act - takes priority over the state rule and
allows the FBI to have easy access to these records as well as to the

What are the FBI and the Congress saying about all of this?

Mum's the word. The FBI has refused to discuss the issue, and Congress
wants to get more information. It has asked Attorney General John
Ashcroft to describe what the FBI has been doing in the libraries. But
Ashcroft also is not talking and has indicated he doesn't have to answer
to Congress.

I've got nothing to hide when I go into a library, and I don't care if the
FBI sees what I'm doing at the computer. What's the big deal?

We all want to be safe, and I don't know anyone who opposes the
prosecution of terrorists. However, the way it is carried out is
important. It comes down to a key question: How does a democracy deal
with serious threats from terrorists and maintain its own freedoms?

Three points to consider:
1.) We have to be very careful that we don't fight terrorism in a way that
destroys democracy. Terrorists may want us to accept their methods and
the idea that our democracy should be tossed away. If that's what they
achieve, we will have walked into a trap, and we will have given them a
major victory.

2.) Libraries exist to provide information and knowledge to the public.
When our own government places librarians in the position of
participating, possibly against their will, to "watch" the public, it runs
counter to  vital principles that have guided us for much of our history.

3.) Protecting our freedom includes being able to openly communicate with
each other without worrying that the government is listening or looking
over our shoulders. The mere suspicion that we're being watched, even if
we're wrong, can intimidate us in expressing our views. If Americans are
only going to say and read what is "politically correct," our democracy
will be in deep trouble.

Questions can be sent to Bill Olds, in care of The Hartford Courant,
Features Department, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115 or by e-mail at

- - - - Claim Made In Sunday Courant Was Wrong, Columnist Says,0,4815633.story
Claim Made In Sunday Courant Was Wrong, Columnist Says
FBI Searched Library Computer, Didn't Install Monitoring Program
The Hartford Courant

November 7 2002

A report that the FBI had installed software to monitor the Internet
activity of patrons at the Hartford Public Library, contained in a column
published in The Courant Sunday, was incorrect.

The two anonymous sources cited in the column now believe they were in
error, free-lance columnist Bill Olds said. The sources backed off the
claim Wednesday after the FBI and the city's chief librarian strongly
disputed it.

In the column, which regularly addresses issues of privacy, Olds wrote
that the FBI had ``bugged'' the library's computers to search for
information that might point to terrorist suspects. He wrote that he could
not reveal the sources of the information.

On Wednesday, Michael J. Wolf, the state's most senior FBI agent,
disputed what he called the ``outrageously fallacious column.'' He said in
a statement that the FBI used a search warrant to seize evidence from a
specific library computer that had been used to ``hack'' into a business
computer system in California ``for criminal purposes.''

He said in the statement that no software was installed on any computer in
the library.

The chief librarian, Louise Blalock, supported Wolf's assertion, saying in
an interview that the FBI had copied the hard drive of one of the
computers. Blalock said she understood that the government's intention was
to look for records of past computer use rather than monitor future use.

Librarians across the country have complained that anti-terrorism
legislation enacted since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, threatens library
patrons' privacy, chiefly by giving the government access to circulation
records. Some have expressed concern that the government may increasingly
seek access to computer-related information as well.

It was against that backdrop, Olds said, that the two library sources
mistakenly assumed the FBI's visit in late September was part of the
terrorism probe.

They connected the dots and made a mistake,'' said Olds, a former
executive director of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union.

Blalock said that she twice turned the FBI away before they returned with
a formal search warrant for the computer hard drive, and that the Hartford
library adheres to a strict privacy policy and does not retain circulation
Copyright 2002, Hartford Courant

REBELS, OVERTHROW, I love it when the government reads my email.

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