As I predicted a couple of weeks ago, astute members of the Connecticut library community have figured out who was ordered by the FBI to turn over the record of a patron who is a suspect in an ongoing anti-terrorism investigation.
Even better, a judge has ruled that the library organization that recieved the order can publicly identify itself next week, pending the government's appeal.
So follow this, civis students. The Legislative Branch passes a law - the Patriot Act - which contains a proviso intended to protect ongoing investigations. The Executive Branch enforces the law, requesting the library records of an individual suspected of something having to do with terrorist activities.
The ACLU posts on its website a whiny affidavit from the library official who got the order. The affidavit laments the fact that she's been "put under a gag order" and so - alas! - she is prevented from warning her fellow librarians about the - shock! gasp! - intrusiveness of this nefarious law. (A law which should not have surprised her with its provisions if she were really as knowledgeable about patron privacy issues as she gives herself credit for being.) ACLU's thin redaction of the affidavit makes it easy to figure out who this individual is and who she works for. But to make absolutely sure that the person being investigated is thoroughly tipped off to the fact that he's under investigation by the feds, the ACLU goes crying to the Judicial Branch, trying to get it to override the other two branches and allow the library to identify itself.
As a result, someone who may have been plotting another 9/11 is going to go underground. Sleeper terrorists already in the US will be tipped off that their use of American taxpayer-funded public libraries to reseach ways to kill large numbers of American taxpayers can be monitored. Hopefully their plans are still too embyronic to be put into motion once they catch the clue that they can be rolled up.
Somehow, I don't think that this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind by "separation of powers" and "checks and balances."
The Roberts Court will likely rule that the national interest in preventing a terror attack trumps an individual library patron's expectation of absolute privacy. Unfortunately, the damage was done when the ACLU posted its warning to the terrorist.