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Librarian Stands up to the Feds 592

Anonymous Coward writes "A librarian at Brandeis University forced the FBI to obtain a warrant to seize computers used to send threats. From the article: 'Federal Bureau of Investigation agents tried to seize 30 of the library's computers without a warrant, saying someone had used the library's Internet connection to send the threat to Brandeis. But the library director, Kathy Glick-Weil, told the agents they could not take the machines unless they got a warrant first. Newton's mayor, David Cohen, backed Ms. Glick-Weil up. After a brief standoff, FBI officials relented and sought a warrant from a judge.'"
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Librarian Stands up to the Feds

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  • After a brief standoff, FBI officials relented and sought a warrant from a judge.

    Relented? The government is supposedly here to protect us and never stomp on our freedoms. When is the government ever NOT supposed to relent to the citizen? I believe that's their job -- to relent to our will if they come onto our property without just cause. In fact, I don't even believe they ever have just cause as the federal government has gone beyond their constitutionally mandated limits of power.

    The FBI, to me, is a
    • by ucahg ( 898110 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:00AM (#14616140)
      And how about the wing of the FBI that investiages kidnappings? If your child is kidnapped, you won't appreciate that?

      How about the FBI department that handles serial killers? Surely that's an infringement of our freedom?

      Of course, the FBI should have gotten a search warrant, but I'm sure they will now and I hope they can determine who sent the threats, because I want to live in a world where I know if someone sends me a death threat (or what-have-you), that they will be found and I won't have to fear my safety on their account.

      You don't see a use for the FBI? Pleeease.
      • And how about the wing of the FBI that investiages kidnappings? If your child is kidnapped, you won't appreciate that?

        I would hire a private investigator and a lawyer. Also, I don't see how someone could kidnap my child if I was a good parent and actually parented the child at all times, as a parent should.

        How about the FBI department that handles serial killers? Surely that's an infringement of our freedom?

        There are so many serial killers that we need an unconstitutional department costing us US$5 billion
        • by gmack ( 197796 ) <{ten.erifrenni} {ta} {kcamg}> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:12AM (#14616318) Homepage Journal

          I would hire a private investigator and a lawyer. Also, I don't see how someone could kidnap my child if I was a good parent and actually parented the child at all times, as a parent should.

          It's nice that you seem to have a lot of money to pay for these sorts of things but what about people who aren't so well off?

          And while I'm at it.. what's with the blaming the victims here? Not all kidnappings can be prevented by the parents.

          • what about people who aren't so well off?
            That arguments cuts no ice with the more extreme libertarians, who seem intent on introducing feudalism to America, where the rich get to make and enforce the laws, as selectively as their wealth allows. Everyone else is just a serf.
            • by linguae ( 763922 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:22PM (#14620687)

              The rich already makes and enforce the laws. Look at copyright extensions, software patents, DMCA, and other related legislature. Most libertarians do not support this political bribery at all, and wish it would be done away with.

              Why do so many people spew all of this bad crap about libertarianism? Libertarianism is about reducing the government's role to protecting our individual freedoms, and is about promoting free markets, indivudal freedoms, and limited government. You need to start reading about libertarians before you compare a libertarian society to serfdom. (In fact, one libertarian, Friedrich Hayek [wikipedia.org], wrote a book called The Road to Serfdom which describes what happens when socialist and collectivist policies are implemented. Go and read, before you spew anti-libertarian garbage.

          • by Fizzl ( 209397 ) <fizzl.fizzl@net> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:31AM (#14616531) Homepage Journal
            Besides, the grandparent obviously has no children of his own, as he has a delusion that children could be watched over 24/7.
          • by Insightfill ( 554828 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @02:25PM (#14618575) Homepage
            Not all kidnappings can be prevented by the parents.

            Actually, it's a matter of statistics that most kidnappings are BY one of the parents. Kidnapping by stranger is so rare as to be the exception that makes the news (extra points for young, white, girl).

        • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:21AM (#14616428) Homepage
          "I would hire a private investigator and a lawyer. Also, I don't see how someone could kidnap my child if I was a good parent and actually parented the child at all times, as a parent should."

          What planet are you on? A private investigator?? Do you *know* how hard it can
          be to track down kidnap victims even with the latest foensic techniques and
          hundreds of people working on the case. So how do you think one single gumshoe
          is going to manage that on his own with just his notebook?

          As for the second comment, thats just so absurb and out of touch that it doesn't
          even deserve a reply. When you come back down from the Planet Brainless Hippie
          let us know and maybe we can have a proper discussion.
        • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:23AM (#14616446) Homepage Journal
          Also, I don't see how someone could kidnap my child if I was a good parent and actually parented the child at all times, as a parent should.

          Now that's just a heartless thing to say. Many good parents still lose their children, often through no fault of their own.

          For example, on our last family vacation we visited a children's museum. While we were building a dinosaur from bones together, my youngest son (only 3 years old!) sneakily departed. We noticed his disappearance pretty quickly, but couldn't find him anywhere in the multilevel facility. Since the facility had no real security, anyone could have picked him up and run off with our child while we were trying to locate him. A kidnapper could have easily attributed his crying to misbehaving rather than apprehension.

          Eventually the employees found him in a dark "virtual" batting cage. He got a good lecture for taking off like that, but then managed to sneak out of an ambulence he was "driving" just a few minutes later. (He's a sneaky bugger. I was sitting right next to him, look down at the radio, look up and he's gone.) Thankfully, I found him much quicker this time and kept him on an even tighter leash after that. (Also threatening to take him to the car and keep him there for the rest of the trip unless he kept in my sight at all times.)

          Now consider all the parents who have their babies stolen by adoption scams. Or kids kidnapped while they're on the school playground. (Especially by relatives who might seem to be sent by you, but often aren't right in the head.) There are just so many ways that kids can be lost or kidnapped that it just isn't funny. A good parent has a far lower chance of their kid being abducted, but they can't guarantee against it.

          So do be a little careful about such sweeping statements, will you?
          • Eventually the employees found him in a dark "virtual" batting cage. He got a good lecture for taking off like that, but then managed to sneak out of an ambulence he was "driving" just a few minutes later. (He's a sneaky bugger. I was sitting right next to him, look down at the radio, look up and he's gone.)

            Have you ever considered spanking him? I know this may sound crass, but my father told me that the only time they ever spanked me is when I was in physical danger. One being that I would run out into a b
        • Also, I don't see how someone could kidnap my child if I was a good parent and actually parented the child at all times, as a parent should.

          Wow. So, your kid is at school, and someone runs in and grabs the first kid near the door... who happens to be your kid. You view that as a shortcoming on your part as a parent?
      • by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:11AM (#14616289)
        And how about the wing of the FBI that investiages kidnappings? If your child is kidnapped, you won't appreciate that?

        How about the FBI department that handles serial killers? Surely that's an infringement of our freedom?

        Of course, the FBI should have gotten a search warrant, but I'm sure they will now and I hope they can determine who sent the threats, because I want to live in a world where I know if someone sends me a death threat (or what-have-you), that they will be found and I won't have to fear my safety on their account.

        You don't see a use for the FBI? Pleeease.


        If they were in the news more for finding serial killers and recovering kidnapped children than they were for using the PATRIOTACT, then perhaps. There is a use for an FBI, but not this one.
        • The vast majority of what the FBI does is correct. But their boss (the president), has mandated a number of things that are probably illegal siting "terrorism" or "trust us" as the grounds. This has created what usually happens in the case of bad management from above: people go to far and cross the bounds.

          The problem is not the FBI, they are the ones who are just stuck enforcing bad decisions from above.
      • Kidnappings could easily be handled by the State. There's no reason that federal officials would have to be involved. Serial Killers tend to stay in a particular area (with a few notable exceptions), again a job for the State.

        The State can (and used to) handle pretty much everything that the feds do now... one should wonder when all the power starts flowing up the chain, away from the individual.
      • by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:20AM (#14616418) Journal
        We have all them things in the UK and the police deal with them fine. Special branchs work on them, but they're still the police and don't need fancy loop hole organisations to do it. If anything they're superior to the FBI because they're directly connected to the average copper working on the street, who notice and see far more than guys working in buildings hidden away from everything.

      • Of course, the FBI should have gotten a search warrant, but I'm sure they will now and I hope they can determine who sent the threats, because I want to live in a world where I know if someone sends me a death threat (or what-have-you), that they will be found and I won't have to fear my safety on their account.

        Most people that support the librarian's actions also appreciate the FBI and support its mandate (well, at least I do). You seem to hold the impression that the defense of civil liberties and the

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Remember. In a free society, "Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms" would be a convenience store chain.
    • Sounds to me as if the FBI were just trying it on.

      The point of warrants is in part to make sure that people cannot go around nicking things by pretending to be police. In this case 30 computers probably represents a good $50,000 worth of capital and another $50,000 or so of installation effort. There has to be a good reason before that amount of money is impounded.

      • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:08AM (#14616250) Homepage Journal
        How many people know what a warrant even looks like?

        Sure we see them handed over in the movies and on tv, but they never go over them and double check them.

        Is there a number we can call to confirm that a warrant is actually valid?

        A determined criminal could create a fake warrant easier than most other official ID badges purely because we don't know what they look like?

        (Of course I'm not American and might be completely wrong, but requiring a warrant in my simplistic eyes is usually just a delaying tactic by the criminal)
      • The point of warrants is in part to make sure that people cannot go around nicking things by pretending to be police.

        Nice try, but Troll Tuesday was yesterday.

        The point of warrants is that the constitution recognized that the police have more power than ordinary citizens, and that power had to be kept in check by someone else. In the case of warrants that's the court, and more specifically an elected judge. If the cops become "too powerful" and start abusing their search privileges, we the people can

    • There is also the issue that they are consistently, persistently a pack of incompetent, ass-covering fuckups. The best way to get promoted in the FBI is to commit some egregious, inexcusable blunder in front of an incurably ethical underling. After they report you, they'll get demoted or fired and you'll get kicked upstairs.
      • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:14AM (#14616350) Homepage Journal
        Oh, and in reference to "what election," it's Tuesday, November 7, 2006... and you'll generally find that voting NO to Republicans will coincide with voting NO to the further erosion of civil liberties. Though do make sure to do your research, there are always a few nutty GOPpers who actually believe that "rule of law" shuck and feel strangely compelled to, you know, uphold the constitution and stuff. And god knows there are plenty of Democrats Podpeople who have totally drunk the ""National Security" kool-aid. But inasmuch as the Administration is leading the charge to throw the judiciary out of the whole "law and order" equation, and the Republican led congress overwhelmingly supports him in this, yeah, they are the bums what need throwing out at this particular time.
        • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:19AM (#14616397) Homepage Journal
          I only vote for one person on every ballot. I vote for the one person who can make a decision the way I believe it should be made. I vote for the one person who understands my life, knows what my needs are, and can adjust the law to be realistic, moral and promote freedom not restrict it.

          That person is me. I recommend voting for yourself on every ballot, straight ticket, every position. Vote NO to all referenda and judge retentions. Write yourself in and you'll be voting for the only person able to enforce the law the way you want it enforced.

          Picture the next presidential election: Condi Rice 7%, Hillary Clinton 8%, Other 85%. I like that. That's my kind of mandate.
    • " If you wonder why people hate us, look at the monsters with guns that wear our flag,"

      So normally I'm a fan of you, not because I agree with you (I often do not) but because your comments are clear and unambiguous. This one, however, kind of irks me; so I'm calling you out on it.

      Is it that you don't support our troops, the dirt pounders in the field, or is it that you don't support our government and command structure sending the dirt pounders into the field. The disitinction is real and I am quite inter
      • This one, however, kind of irks me; so I'm calling you out on it.

        I appreciate your honesty. The sentence wasn't flamebait, but it does open the door for resolving what I meant.

        Is it that you don't support our troops, the dirt pounders in the field, or is it that you don't support our government and command structure sending the dirt pounders into the field. The disitinction is real and I am quite interested in your response. The statement sounds like you think the individual GI Joe's are to blame, but your
  • by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:58AM (#14616124)
    You know our society is in a sad state of affairs when someone demanding a warrant is newsworthy. This type of behavior should be the norm, not the exception. That said, kudos to the librarian for reminding folks that we are SUPPOSED to live in a country where people have rights and the government can't trample all over them at will.
    • You know our society is in a sad state of affairs when someone demanding a warrant is newsworthy.

      Isn't hyped up fear of "terrorism" wonderful? I think the important point here is that, if there really are reasons to be concerned then getting a warrant is not an onerous task! For some reason (maybe it's the joys of TV) people seem to feel that saving people fom getting a warrant really is going to make a difference in how effective they can be - that it really does spare them vast amounts of time and work.
      • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @01:15PM (#14617723)
        Exactly. It's not like submitting a FISA warrant is a hard or onerous task. Hell the agent has up to 72 hours after the fact to obtain the warrant! Only ONE warrant has ever been turned down by the FISC, so the problem is either that they are doing actions which they know even a rubber stamp court would not grant OR they are spying on so many people that the court can't keep up with the volume of warrants that would be required. Either prospect should be scary to any freedom loving American.
    • by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:10AM (#14616279)
      Of course it's a sad state of affairs, that's why it both is and should be news. People need to see that you CAN stand up and demand that federal officials follow the law.

      Until the American people wake up and start actually seeing what the people they elected are allowing to happen without so much as a protest vote, or even actively participating in them (see Abramoff, DeLay, and other things that non-partisan public interest groups have been screaming about for years) it's going to be an extremely sad state of affairs, so I'd like to see more news of this nature, frankly. It's among the only things that keep me hopeful for this battered country.
  • Congratz (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kushy ( 225928 ) * <kush@@@marakush...com> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:59AM (#14616126) Homepage
    Mrs. Kathy Glick-Weil,

    Thank you, for being a citizen. I wish more Americans would be more like you.

    • Re:Congratz (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:26AM (#14616480) Homepage
      Mrs. Kathy Glick-Weil,

      Thank you, for being a citizen. I wish more Americans would be more like you.

      Oddly enough, it seems Librarians spend a disproportionate amount of time doing such things.

      From what I can tell, as a group they're more concerned with your rights and liberties than most everyone else.

      Support your local librarian.
      • Re:Congratz (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zCyl ( 14362 )
        Oddly enough, it seems Librarians spend a disproportionate amount of time doing such things.

        From what I can tell, as a group they're more concerned with your rights and liberties than most everyone else.


        I would love to see the results of a study comparing politicians and librarians for knowledge of what the constitution says.
  • by Akardam ( 186995 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:59AM (#14616130)
    Seriously... good for her.
  • by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:00AM (#14616142) Homepage Journal
    Doesn't Ms Glick-Weil know that demanding that law enforcement agencies obtain warrants (even retrospectively) makes the country unsafe, and helps terrorists? I know this, because no less an authority than The President said while talking about NSA wiretaps in last nights State of The Union address.
  • Why is this news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the computer guy nex ( 916959 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:02AM (#14616162)
    This is no different than a Police Officer asking to search your car after you were pulled over.

    Most people say yes, and the police can legally search with permission.

    You can legally say no, and the officer must let you go due to the lack of a warrant. This happens on a daily basis.
    • Thank you. I couldn't help but think "Someone told investigators to get a warrant and this is news how?"

    • Re:Why is this news? (Score:3, Informative)

      by gowen ( 141411 )
      Well, most of the time, if the police pull you over and want to search the car, they've seen you do something which has given them probable cause [wikipedia.org] to believe a crime has been committed (e.g. DUI, or just suspicious behaviour [a Terry Stop]). You can say no, but there's a good chance you'll get legally searched anyway.
      • Re:Why is this news? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lar3ry ( 10905 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @02:08PM (#14618379)
        The police ususally don't have the ability to force you to do things
        like open the trunk of your car. However, they may ask, and they can
        even lie to you ("I heard something moving in that trunk!") in order
        to get you to voluntarily comply with their request.

        One of the best pieces of advice that I've heard was that if you do
        have contraband in your car and a police officer demands to search it
        without a warrant, to simply get out of your vehicle, lock all the
        doors, and close your door after putting your car keys into the car as
        well. Since everything in the car is locked and you cannot get into
        it, you have removed any occasion that the police officer may think
        there is reasonable danger present to the officer in that he/she must
        break into your vehicle (higher standard of proof required).

        However, there ARE people that need less burden of proof. For
        instance, said police officer may simply radio the Fish and Game
        wardens that they suspect you have violated state hunting/fishing
        laws. These people have the right to actually use a crowbar and force
        your vehicle open without a warrant. Of course, they won't find any
        illegal game/fish in your vehicle, but now that the car is opened and
        subject to search, those other things in your car can be considered
        fair game. (Pun not intended.)

        A good lawyer (or perhaps even the public defender) can probably have
        the evidence dismissed against you, but it's pretty shaky ground
        you'll be standing on. Judges don't like denying evidence against
        people that are clearly guilty (despite what you see on crime shows
        nowadays).

        Now, I'm not advocating people feel free to transport drugs or
        automatic weapons. Actually, I'm advocating that people don't
        transport illegal things in their vehicles! It's simply stupid to be
        lulled into a false sense of security because you THINK the police
        will be unable to search your car without a warrant.
    • He doesn't have to let you go, but he often does. Unless he's feeling like a prick that day, and makes you wait while they call out a K-9 unit to sniff the perimeter of your car, looking for probable cause.
    • Most people say yes, and the police can legally search with permission.
      You can legally say no, and the officer must let you go due to the lack of a warrant. This happens on a daily basis


      meanwhile back in the real world...

      say no and the cop WILL detain you while he calls in backup, drug dogs etc.
      because saying no means you MUST be doing something wrong.

    • How often is no accepted? While I've got no evidence to back me up, I'm willing to bet that the majority of cases of refusal of permission end up with the cop in some way "causing" himself to perceive reasonable suspicion, and searching anyway.

      Hassling someone enough is bound to provoke him to get nervous or agitated, and then he's "acting suspicious". Then get him worked up enough to contradict a statement he's made, and somehow twist it into reasonable suspicion.

      You wouldn't hear about cases where someo
      • While I've got no evidence to back me up, I'm willing to bet that the majority of cases of refusal of permission end up with the cop in some way "causing" himself to perceive reasonable suspicion, and searching anyway.

        Probably more often than you might think. Defense attorneys really are quite good at challenging fourth amendment violations, because the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine means that one mistake can get the whole case dismissed. Cops know this, and usually give wide berth to someone wh

    • Not in California. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Demon-Xanth ( 100910 )
      In California, your car can be searched at any time for any reason if you are on public roads.

      You can say no, but that won't do you any good.
      • California may do a lot of things differently than the rest of the country, but the Constitution still applies in California, and the Constitution is the governing document that gives you an expectation that you cannot be searched unreasonably without a warrant (unless George W. Bush wants to search you and swears on the Bible that he's doing it for the right reasons).
        • Basically, every single driver's ed/traffic school course taught me that just getting your license is basically signing that you accept that any law enforcement officer can search your car.

          IMO, it's not right, but nobody has enough money to fight it.

          There was one instance that I saw on Cops or something like that, where some guy's ex girlfriend called in an anonymous tip to the cops saying a guy had drugs, the guy just finished packing to move. They made him unpack everything that he owned while they looked
    • Re:Why is this news? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by shalla ( 642644 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:35AM (#14616584)
      Actually, this is significantly different from a police officer asking to search your car, as in most states it is illegal for library staff to turn over information on library patrons' resource usage without a warrant or unless the PAtriot Act is invoked. I can't speak for Massachusetts, but in the two states I've worked in, library records (including use of electronic resources) are specifically named in state privacy laws. I cannot give out that information without a warrant unless I have a warrant (or a national security letter).

      I was annoyed with the coverage of this when it first ran because many news articles portrayed the library director as having a choice in the matter and choosing to impede the FBI. It would have been nice to see an article that ran that essentially said, "Library Director follows law and demands warrant so evidence not later thrown out of court or abused."
  • by dgaines ( 950636 )
    What worries me more is that this type of behavior, i.e. demanding a warrant before relenquishing information/property, is abnormal.
  • Ook (Score:5, Funny)

    by revery ( 456516 ) <charles&cac2,net> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:04AM (#14616194) Homepage
    I imagine the Librarian being a several hundred pound orangutan didn't hurt things either. I hope they didn't call him a monkey. He hates that.*

    *for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, you have my pity and should click here [wikipedia.org] or here [wikipedia.org] for more information.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:05AM (#14616200) Homepage Journal
    4th Amendment [findlaw.com]:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Now, before you get out your boolean logic analyzers for a legal statement with centuries of precedent built on it, grok the fact [findlaw.com] that

    "searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment--subject only to a few specially established and well-delineated exceptions."
    • "searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment--subject only to a few specially established and well-delineated exceptions."

      THANK YOU! I can't even count the number of times just this week that I have seen or heard people refer to the NSA wiretapping as "warranted" because we're in a "state of war". (Amazing how we can be in a state of war w/o having declared such, the authorization of the use of force bein

  • by blackdefiance ( 142579 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:05AM (#14616208) Homepage
    You'd think someone would RTFA before posting: the librarian was at public library in Newton, MA, not at Brandeis. There's a big difference when the library in question belongs to 'the people'. Also, mod -1 for old news.
    • I'm not sure what your point is...
      Because it's a public library, they should expect a warrant, or they shouldn't expect a warrant.
      Or a private library should or shouldn't expect one?

      To me it doesn't really matter, it didn't matter to the FBI wanting to take the stuff without a warrant.

  • Well done, librarian. Same rules for everyone: students aren't allowed to burst into the library, talking loudly on their mobile phones and brandishing weapons, and neither are the FBI. Agent Marcinkiewicz must also pay her outstanding fines before she is allowed to borrow any more books, or computers.
  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:09AM (#14616266)
    Honestly, I really can't find this situation to be one where people were facing off the big bad government. The FBI was working under the supposition that people were in fairly immediate danger and that they needed to move to get the information ASAP. They determined that previous case law allowed for this.

    And as for oversight of the FBI, the fact is that if the computers had been obtained illegally and against procedures, the evidence that they provided would have been thrown out in court. No FBI agent is looking to have an arrest dismissed due to a technicality such as that.

    I suppose you don't have to like the FBI, and certainly they got to where they were today due to a lot of PR and manuvering in the Hoover years, but they were responders, likely called in by the local authorities to help with the issue. They weren't sitting in FBI HQ spying on personal emails and suddenly decided to descend on Newton in black cars and helicopters....

    • by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:36AM (#14616605) Homepage
      I suppose you don't have to like the FBI, and certainly they got to where they were today due to a lot of PR and manuvering in the Hoover years, but they were responders, likely called in by the local authorities to help with the issue. They weren't sitting in FBI HQ spying on personal emails and suddenly decided to descend on Newton in black cars and helicopters....

      And yet this story proved that even they are not above the law. For a truly lawful and just society, nobody can be. Clear and present danger or not, the law must be followed. If the law is too inflexible for this type of scenario then it must be changed, but not broken at will by those sworn to uphold it.

      Finkployd
  • Summary WRONG (Score:5, Informative)

    by hrieke ( 126185 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:09AM (#14616271) Homepage
    It was not the Brandeis Librarians, but the Librarians for the City of Newton Public Library that forced the FBI to get a warrant.
    I should know, that library is about a mile away from where I live.
  • I read the summary and wondered why a Newton mayor would back up a Brandeis librarian.

    The messages were sent from a Newton public library and allegedly threatened the Heller School at Brandeis.

    The librarian works for Newton, not Brandeis.

    --Pat

  • I don't see why they needed a warrant if it they knew the e-mail originated formt he Newton Library and were in hot pursuit, AKA fresh pursuit... http://dictionary.law.com/default2.asp?selected=88 6&bold=%7C%7C%7C%7C [law.com] We already have laws in place for warrantless searches when probable cause comes into play, no?
    • Probable cause is the basis for getting a warrant and not a substitute for a warrant. Unless the police thought that either the perps, a bomb or a bomb trigger were in the computer, there were no hot pursuit/exigent circumstances to justify not getting a warrant. The computers were not going anywhere. What would have been accomplished by having the FBI grab up all of the libraries computers and dragging them off to the lab? Was that somehow going to save lives? This is exactly why we want judicial over
  • Two sides (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <{wgrother} {at} {optonline.net}> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:12AM (#14616312) Journal
    Dennis Nealon, a spokesman for Brandeis, declined to disclose details about the e-mail message other than to say that it warned of an impending terrorist attack against the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. The message was sent to the university's office of public safety that day at about 11 a.m.

    Clearly, some nut out to stir things up, but who knows? If you receive such a threat, in this day and age, wouldn't you have to take it seriously?

    But she [Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokesman for the FBI's Boston branch] said the FBI had a right to seize the computers because the agents who went to the Newton library thought Brandeis students, professors, and staff members were in immediate danger. "We could have done this," said Ms. Marcinkiewicz. "It is supported by case law."

    Nonetheless, she said, the FBI decided to seek a warrant. By the time agents had determined that they needed to seize only three of the computers, about 5 p.m., they realized that people at Brandeis were not about to be killed, she added.

    So there was an apparent threat, the FBI determined (who knows how) that it came from the library, was ready to seize the computers until the librarian intervened, and then the FBI backed off, got a warrant, and everyone went home happy. Where's the news?

    Perhaps everyone sees the FBI as the US Government's stormtroopers (remember Waco?), but the fact is they are charged with the duty of protecting all citizens of the US from harm. They saw a threat and were prepared to act accordingly. They could have simply taken the computers and have been off and no one could have done a thing about it, but they chose retsraint, perhaps wondering how credible the threat really was. In the end, no one gets hurt, Democracy is safe, and the Republic goes on.

    • Re:Two sides (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <sherwin@@@amiran...us> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:21AM (#14616420) Homepage Journal
      The important part of the story is that citizens have an active duty to stand up to organs of authority.

      When the police/fbi/black suits come for you, demand to see the warrant. Don't agree to anything unofficial, don't agree to anything causal.

      Demand a warrant.

      Democracy and freedom only remain vibrant through active participation of the citizenry. This means more than "you have to vote". You have to actively stand up for your rights; rights that go unexercised you will most likely loose.
  • by clamantis ( 708173 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:12AM (#14616319)
    Correction - Ms. Glick-Weil is Director of the Newton Free Library which is in Newton NEAR Brandeis. Brandeis is a couple miles away in Waltham, MA.
  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:15AM (#14616359) Journal
    The same story, edited down to the bare minimum, because apparently the vast majority of people here can't be bothered to clicky-clicky. Emphasis is mine.
    An e-mail threat... prompted the evacuation of more than a dozen Brandeis University buildings [along with a local elementary school]. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents tried to seize 30 of the library's computers without a warrant... Ms. Glick-Weil allowed an FBI computer-forensics examiner to work with information-technology specialists at the library to narrow down which computers might have been used to send the threatening message. They determined that three computers were implicated in the alleged crime. Late that evening, the FBI received a warrant to cart away the three computers...

    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...


    The key to this story is the "clear and present danger" issue. According to Mayor Cohen and an FBI representative, the law actually would have permitted the agents to go ahead and just take the computers if they had believed the situation to be an emergency. And that's why there was a standoff: because FBI agents paused to evaluate the situation, balanced the risks of waiting for a warrant with the benefit of having the assistance of library IT staff, and decided to get the warrant.

    So, kudos for Ms. Glick-Weil for requesting the warrant. And kudos to the FBI for considering the request and deciding it was the best course of action. Had they thought the threat was credible and immediate, I'm sure they would have responded differently, and I would have a hard time faulting them for it.
  • by Captain Sarcastic ( 109765 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:15AM (#14616360)
    ... I still applaud Ms. Glick-Weil for her stand. I think that the Slashdot headline was a little misleading, though, suggesting images of jack-booted thugs trying to grab every single computer in the library being held off by a stereotypical dressed-in-severe-black-dress-with-hair-tied-back- in-a-bun librarian.

    The article instead gives me the impression of over-reacting investigators being greeted with a question of "Hold on a minute, tiger, where's your warrant?" followed by "Well, without a warrant, you can't cart off any of the computers. But I'll tell you what we can do -- we'll let you look at the computers here to figure out which ones you might need to grab, while you get a judge to issue a warrant. Is that workable?"

    It wasn't black-hat-vs.-white-hat, it was a voice of reason calming down a couple of (rightfully) concerned FBI agents. It wasn't a stand-off, it was a prevented stand-off... which strikes me as better all around. So let's not generate hysteria after the fact, but let us be grateful that there are people willing to tell City Hall, if not to get lost, then to slow down and wait for its own papers.
  • by Beebos ( 564067 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:15AM (#14616361)
    ....next article... .....Librarian vanishes....... ....next article...... ...Dewey Decimal System big hit in Guantanamo Bay.
  • by Ex-Narwhal ( 938283 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:40AM (#14616663)
    Mrs. Glick-Weil was indicted on charges of methamphetamine production which caused a fire that subsequently burned her entire house down. FBI agents have determined that all evidence of the lab was destroyed in the blaze. She was also ticketed for a broken tail lamp.
  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @11:44AM (#14616701)
    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.

    Uh...that's not how "clear and present danger" was ever meant to be used. The phrase comes from a 1919 US Supreme Court case on first amendment protected speech [wikipedia.org].

    Incidentally, that case was overturned in 1969.

    "Clear and present danger" was specifically NOT, as of 1969, a legitimate reason for punishing someone for speech. It certainly is not a legitimate reason for illegal search and seizure (ie, bypassing the court system.)

    I hate it when people romanticize unconstitutional action; happens in the movies all the time. "You can't do that!" "Oh? Are you going to make me get a warrant to search this place? Little Timmy could be dead by then!"

    • by Sigma 7 ( 266129 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @12:04PM (#14616952)
      "Clear and present danger" was specifically NOT, as of 1969, a legitimate reason for punishing someone for speech. It certainly is not a legitimate reason for illegal search and seizure (ie, bypassing the court system.)


      It's been replaced with "Imminant Lawless Action", as stated from the Wikipedia link. Regardless of it's legality, it can easily be used to encourage cooperation between the FBI and the library to have a forensics team analyze the exact source of the message without having to do an unnecessary bulk processing of 30 computers.

      How the events turned out is exactly how things should be processed. Instead of a bulk request for 30 computers, it should be narrowed down to a smaller cluster that can be more easily analysed. In terms of evidence, it is quality, not quantity.

  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @12:09PM (#14617005) Journal
    You are garenteed a constitutional right to due process. Nothing can happen to you for demanding it. The fact that you require the government to do _all_ of their job is not one to be ashamed of. "It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error." - Robert H. Jackson Surpreme Court Justice.

    The government, with less and less of the will of the people (and more so rich investors and coprorations) cannot be trusted. Cooperation is not required, the law has already given the government whatever powers it requires to do the job (all too often too many powers, IMHO). Much like the 5th amendment allows one to deny testimony, and the mere use of the 5th admendment cannot constiute an admission of guilt, your demanding due process should be expected, not your cooperation.

    Example: the IRS. So many people give into their notice of deficientcies and levies, despite the IRS not obtaining the proper court order. You can cooperate, but any action until that court order is voluntary. Also, I recently read a disturbing ruling that you may actually give up to your rights to anything they acquire from you voluntarily. So, you better demand due process and double check everything!!!

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. -- Thomas Edison

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