Tuesday, January 31, 2006

FBI backs down when a librarian demands a warrant

The Chronicle has reported that the FBI wanted to seize 30 library computers at a public library in Newton, Mass. According to the article, an e-mail threat had led to an evacuation of more than a dozen Brandeis U buildings on Jan. 18.

The FBI agents alledged that someone had used the public library's Internet connection to send the threatening e-mail. The library director, Kathy Glick-Weil, told agents they could not take the machines without a warrant. Fortunately for her, David Cohen -- Newton's mayor-- supported her.

Finally the FBI officials sought a warrant for a judge while Glick-Weil allowed an FBI examiner to work with IT from the library to narrow down what computers might have been used. They decided that three of the computers might have been used. The FBI warrant allowed the agents to take away these computers and view only the threatening e-mail message as well as the messages sent immediately before and after that message.

According to the Chronicle article:

Mr. Cohen said in an interview on Monday that he and Ms. Glick-Weil demanded the warrant because the FBI agents did not indicate that anyone at Brandeis faced a "clear and present danger." If there had been such a danger, Mr. Cohen added, agents probably would have seized the computers without even asking for them.

"We were able to both protect public safety and also protect the rights of people, the sense of privacy of many, many innocent users of the computers," he said. "Had we given them the computers, they would have gotten to see e-mails from ordinary citizens doing ordinary things and would not have preserved privacy."

Some have lashed out arguing that officials handled the situation irresponsibly, but the mayor reported he received many positive comments from people who supported his actions. Personally, I think the library director is very lucky to have a supportive mayor.

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Blogger Onanite said...

Kathy Glick-Weil is a god! I give here a purple heart. Good going Kathy!


Tuesday, January 31, 2006 2:58:00 PM  

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