Small Town Library Takes On The Feds

Small Town Library Takes On The Feds
WHATCOM COUNTY - The FBI wants to know who checked out a book from a small library about Osama Bin Laden. But the library isn't giving out names, saying the government has no business knowing what their patrons read.

The library in Deming isn't much larger than a family home. Located in rural Whatcom County, it hardly seems the site for a showdown with the feds.

"I think we all figure it's places like the New York Library System that's going to be one of the first we hear about," said the attorney for the Whatcom County Library System, Deborra Garret.

At the center of the issue, a book titled "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America."

The FBI confiscated the original book after a patron reported than some one hand wrote a bin Laden quote in the margin that read: "Let history be witness I am a criminal."

The FBI demanded to know the names and addresses of everyone who ever checked out the book.

"Libraries are a haven where people should be able to seek whatever information they want to pursue without any threat of government intervention," said Director of Whatcom County Library System, Joan Airoldi.

Because of privacy policies, the library does not give out circulation records without a court order. When the FBI got a grand jury subpoena, the library filed a motion to quash it -- citing the rights of all people who use the library.

"Like the right to read and to read the material of one's choice without fear that someone will come around with questions about why you chose that book," said Garrett.

The FBI withdrew the subpoena, reserving the right to file it again.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office says they are not permitted to discuss anything that involves the grand jury.

If the feds had demanded the records under the Patriot Act, the library would have had to hand them over without question and without help from the courts.

The FBI still has the bin Laden book.

Librarians point out, it's overdue.