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FBI drops library records investigation

[JURIST] The FBI [official website] on Monday dropped its investigation into the library records of a Connecticut library, concluding that the identity of patrons using a particular computer last February no longer posed a threat to national security. Four librarians mounted a challenge against the National Security Letter (NSL) [text, PDF; ACLU backgrounder] they received last year, refusing to turn over library records and protesting the government's insistence that the librarians not disclose the NSL. In a statement [press release] Monday, the FBI said that they determined through other means that patrons using the particular computer during a 45-minute time period last February did not pose a threat and ended the investigation. Though the FBI maintains that they successfully discounted the threat posed, the decision to drop the investigation prompted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] to call it a victory for the four librarians who refused to comply [press release].

The ACLU last year filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] on behalf of the library, and in September US District Judge Janet Hall lifted the gag order [JURIST report] restricting the four librarians from disclosing that they had received a NSL, ruling that it unfairly prevented librarians from participating in debate about the proper revision of the USA Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] before the government renewed [JURIST report] the Act in March. Federal prosecutors abandoned appeal efforts [JURIST report] in April 2006. The New York Times has more. The Connecticut Post has local coverage.

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