Tuesday, August 28, 2007

SMU to host speaker on PATRIOT Act Sept. 18

WINONA, Minn. — A Connecticut librarian who is one of only four people in the nation who can legally discuss a gag order imposed as part of a USA PATRIOT Act investigation will speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Saint Mary’s University.

The event — free and open to the public — will be held in Figliulo Recital Hall, located in the SMU Performance Center.

George Christian was party to a lawsuit that successfully challenged the gag order provision of the National Security Letter (NSL) statute. The NSL is part of the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). In 2005, Christian was served by the FBI with an NSL demanding that he turn over records concerning library patrons’ use of computers, the Internet and e-mail.

“The idea that the government can secretly investigate what the public is informing itself about is chilling,” Christian says.

Christian and three colleagues are the only four people who can even mention they have been served with an NSL. Christian said the recipients of an estimated 270,000 other NSLs issued since 9-11 “are under a perpetual gag order and must therefore carry the secret of their encounter with them to their graves.”

The group has been featured in Washington Post and New York Times news stories, the Public Broadcasting System’s NOW program, the American Civil Liberties Union website, and other media outlets.

Christian’s appearance at Saint Mary’s is being held in conjunction with events for Constitution Day, which was instituted by the Bill of Rights Institute to “educate young people about the words and ideas of America's Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our founding documents, and how our founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.”

For more information, contact Dr. Steven Schild, (507) 457-1753.