Librarian George Christian speaks on landmark court struggle against FBI’s National Security Letters

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Democracy Now speaks with Connecticut librarian George Christian. He and three other librarians sued the US government after receiving a national security letter demanding information about library patrons.

[transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: And George Christian, why did you and the three other librarians—Peter Chase of the Plainfield libraries; Janet Nocek, the Portland Public Library director; and the Glastonbury Public Library director Barbara Bailey—why did you risk so much, gagged for so long, not being able to tell your colleagues what was happening? Why do you think this is so important?

GEORGE CHRISTIAN: We think that libraries are one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. People ought to be free to go to a library and get information that the librarians have provided. Librarians try to be impartial, but just provide quality information. And really, you ought to be able to go to a library and check anything you want, whether it’s political, whether it’s research into breast cancer or whatever, without the FBI looking over your shoulder or anyone in the community looking over your shoulder. And that’s a long tradition that librarians have had. It’s part of the Library Bill of Rights, first issued in the 1940s.

But more importantly, we all take the constitutional protections that we have for granted. And the truth is, these protections are only there as long as we’re willing to demand, that we, the public, are willing to demand, that they be enforced. It’s always tempting for those in power to encroach upon these civil liberties in the name of expediency. And if someone doesn’t stand up and say, “Hey, wait a minute,” before you know it, your liberties will be gone. We have a history in this country of reacting to any external threat by throwing the baby out with the bathwater and clamping down on our civil liberties.

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