Library probe should be an open book - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Library probe should be an open book

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Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2005 6:22 am | Updated: 8:09 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Think back. What were you reading around March 3, March 19 and April 6, 2004? That was about the time Sen. John Kerry clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in his challenge against President Bush.

Did you happen to check out a book from the Scottsdale Public Library then? Did you surf the Internet on the library’s public computers?

If you did, there’s a chance investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies are studying your reading habits, according to Sunday’s Tribune.

The Department of Justice used court orders three times in early 2004 to obtain account information.

Records provided to the Tribune in response to a formal Arizona public records request did not detail what records federal investigators sought. Letters from U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton to Scottsdale library director Rita Hamilton requested city officials to keep the subpoenas secret.

"Although you are not required to do so, it is requested that your company not disclose the fact of the subpoena or your production of the information described in the subpoena," he wrote.

Are you comfortable with that? Is it OK with you that government investigators plundered library records, then shushed library officials?

What were you reading back then anyway? "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou? "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck? "1984" by George Orwell?

Are you a pervert? A racist? An extremist? Can you prove you’re not?

Department of Justice investigators likely were seeking information about the person or persons who sent a mail bomb to Scottsdale diversity director Don Logan. Logan and two other city employees were injured Feb. 24, 2004, when the package exploded in his hands.

Charlton asked Hamilton to turn over the library records to Jose Obando, a special agent with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which is the lead agency in the mail bomb investigation. Charlton declined to speak about the matter for Sunday’s article.

If the subpoenas were tied to the mail bomb investigation, why the secrecy?

Disclosure couldn’t possibly impede the investigation — at least at this point.

Postal investigators called a news conference on May 24, 2004, to announce that they believed the package bomb may have sat unattended in the Civic Center Library during an event called "Authors and Appetizers Among Friends" six days before the explosion.

What were you reading back then anyway? "Black Boy" by Richard Wright? "King & King" by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland? "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles?

Are you a radical? A deviant? A political extremist? Can you prove you’re not?

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