Monday, February 06, 2006

Terror in the Libraries of the "Safest American City"

Today the Boston Globe presents a column in which the author, Richard L. Cravatts, lambasts the librarian in the Massachusetts suburb of Newton for "protect[ing] terrorists" by insisting that Federal officials secure a search warrant before looking at the records of a suspected bomber who looked at books at her library.

Mr. Cravatts, who appears to be a shill for the Heritage Foundation, a Right-Wing think tank with more axes to grind than a medieval blacksmith, is the latest to equate the protection of constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms with aiding and abetting terrorists. It makes me wonder, do we as a people even deserve the fantastic, historically unique protections our forefathers guaranteed us anymore?

We have a president who literally cannot help himself to keep from lying at every turn (although less in February!), telling us in one speech that, "every time you hear about government wiretapping, that requires a warrant, and nothing's changed (my paraphrase)," while at the very same moment engaging in a wholesale fishing expedition through the citizenry's protected private information looking for any evidence he thinks supports terrorism, in direct contradiction to his phony assurances.

Remember, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is already on record as saying that the reason the White House didn't request greater surveillance power through desired changes to FISA law back on '01 and '02 was that the administration knew Congress would not grant such widespread authority. The choice was made to disregard the process when they knew their assertions of unlimited executive power would not pass muster. When Gonzalez and the rest of the White House racketeers go on trial, this will be a key point: the administration knew they were overreaching, that their conduct was illegal, and they knew they'd be stopped, so they merely proceeded in secret.

This is, quite simply, the most audacious move of any president in the last century, and the greatest constitutional crisis since the South seceeded from the Union in 1861.

Read this op-ed piece. It implies that unless federal authorities can look into anyone's library account, at any moment, for any or no reason at all, we will be blown to smithereens by "terrorists." Not even the Soviets were able to raise our fears to such hysterical heights.

The librarian held the searchers at bay for ten hours while they secured warrants, and the patron's rights were protected, and nothing blew up, except Mr. Cravatts' anger. In a system wherein an accused individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the idea that the patron is simply, with no evidence and no debate, a "terrorist," chills me to the bone.

I go to the library all the time. I don't want anyone's government nosing around in my records and seeing what my private literary tastes are like. Am I now a terrorist because I value my unique, American right to privacy?

How can we be the strongest and most prosperous nation the world has ever known and yet at the same time be so vulnerable to total annihilation that a person reading a book in the nation's safest city is more dangerous than all the machinations of the Soviet Union? Our unique constitutional rights make this country what it is, and even fifty years of Communism couldn't crack the sanctity of the Bill of Rights. Not that paranoid Right-Wingers didn't try, again and again, to fight their perceived enemies by becoming more and more like them.

Think about it. Then go to your local library in Newton, or Springfield, or Kansas City, or Duluth, or Richmond, or wherever you are reading this, and check out a book of your choice.

While you still can.


exgrad said...

Helluva post, GTL

This particular phrase in the Cravatts piece bothers me deeply:

"[The] bomb threat was very different than an instance in which a crime has already occurred. There is a substantial difference between searching for evidence before or during the commission of a crime, when the intention is to prevent its occurrence, and the more typical search for evidence after a criminal act has been committed, when rapid response is not necessary"

Mr. Cravatts' comments are extremely dangerous. unless one considers a "Minority Report" like world where people can be arrested for their future plans of possibly maybe being involved in a crime, a good thing.

It is particularly in this type of situation that we must be extremely vigilant of our rights (unless of course one considers a "Minority Report" like world where people can be arrested for their future plans of possibly maybe being involved in a crime, a good thing).

He largely misses the point. If we are to follow his advice (as you state), requiring warrants for "future crimes" is unecessary; we can just lock people up for things we think they might do.

I miss my country

Banana Librarian said...

As a librarian it does my heart good to read these comments. Yep, it was a "Helluva post." My depression has been deepening as the days, months, and now years of Bush go by. I live in Florida, and so have been attacked at all levels by those evil men and their cronies. When will it finally end?