Throwing the Book at Us

Under the Patriot Act, librarians and booksellers are required to open their records to the FBI so the feds can trace a person's Internet activities and the books he has been reading and buying. Since these investigations are conducted in secret, the librarians and booksellers are bound under a gag order not to divulge one word of what the FBI is after, nor, indeed, even mention they have received a visit from the FBI. Librarians fear criminal prosecution should they talk, although the law actually does not specify penalties.

As a result, nobody knows exactly what's going on. The Justice Department recently denied a Freedom of Information Act request for the number of FBI library visits. Still, bits and pieces of information leak out. A survey conducted by the University of Illinois last October, sent to 1,505 directors of 5,094 U.S. public libraries, showed the FBI was busy making visits.

"In the year after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks," the survey said, "federal and local law-enforcement officials visited at least 545 libraries (10.7 percent) to ask for these records. Of these, 178 libraries received visits from the FBI itself."

The survey shows that libraries are split on whether to cooperate with the government. It is thought that such visits have declined. Still, in a recent e-mail, a librarian in Bluffton, Ohio, reported that an unidentified woman recently entered the library and asked for the local hazardous-materials plan.

Supposing her to be a patron, the librarian got out the folder and handed it to the woman. "When I gave her the binder," the librarian wrote, "she took out the contents and handed me a letter stating the document would no longer be available at public libraries because it contained 'highly critical' information and would be available 'at a controlled location where proper ID of the user can be readily obtained.'" The local Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director signed the letter.

Soon after, a woman from the local homeland security office removed the same file from the Lima, Ohio, public library. Officials there are said to be particularly nervous about terrorism because of a nearby tank-manufacturing plant and a large oil refinery. Disseminating hazardous-materials plans is part of an effort by both environmentalists and the government to make information accessible to localities so that they can protect themselves from industrial pollution.

After Sept. 11, but before the Patriot Act was passed, the FBI came down on several libraries. In one reported incident at Temple University in Philadelphia at the height of the anthrax scare, two FBI agents visited the university's computer center and ordered two student staff members to copy the hard drive of a library employee and give it to them. If anyone asked what they were doing, the FBI agents said, the students were to say they were ridding the computer of a virus. The plan collapsed when the students found that the employee's office door was locked. When the university's chief librarian heard what was going on, she went to the school's lawyers, one of whom asked the FBI about it. The FBI men said they needed the info because the library employee had received an e-mail mentioning the word anthrax. After the call from the school's lawyer, the agents left and did not return.

TURN THE OTHER SHEIKH
"A very evil and wicked religion" is how Billy Graham's son Franklin described Islam after Sept. 11. "I believe the Koran teaches violence, not peace," added Franklin Graham, who is one of George W. Bush's favorite theological friends, having given a prayer at his inauguration. After consulting with U.S. government officials in Jordan, Franklin (who runs a Christian charity group called Samaritan's Purse) said he had relief workers "poised and ready to roll into Iraq" to help Muslims with the necessities of life, and more important, to start the conversion process to Christianity.

Reconstruction of Iraq, according to Bush, is to be a privatized venture funded by grateful taxpayers. But apparently there will be room for men of the cloth. "Franklin Graham obviously thinks it is a war against Islam," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "This is a guy who gave the invocation at President Bush's inauguration and believes Islam is a wicked faith. And he's going to go into Iraq in the wake of an invading army and convert people to Christianity?"

And Franklin Graham won't be alone. Waiting with Samaritan's Purse workers in Jordan are relief workers for the Southern Baptist Convention, which has no use for Allah, to put it mildly.

All in all, Iraq is a bonanza for church people. At Camp Bushmaster, Army chaplain Josh Llano offers filthy soldiers a dip in his private 500-gallon pool of cool, clear water to get clean. But there's a hitch. "It's simple," he said. "They want water. I have it—as long as they agree to get baptized." So to get clean, the soldiers first must endure a 90-minute sermon from Llano. "They do appear physically and spiritually cleansed," Llano said.

THE BAD NEIGHBOR POLICY
Everyone laughed when the neoconservatives elaborated their domino theory for remaking the Middle East. They're not laughing anymore. Syria is probably next in line simply because that nation's economy is almost wholly dependent on Iraqi oil, now controlled by the U.S. As a sign of what's to come, Syria's oil pipeline from Iraq was cut off last week. BOMBS FOR PEACE
Appearing in the House of Commons, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon was asked whether Iraqi mothers of children killed by cluster bombs would be likely to thank British forces for their actions. "One day they might," Hoon replied, pointing out that cluster bombs were "perfectly legal" and have an "entirely legitimate military role."
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