Double Darn

Columnist : Albert Paschall

I happen to like librarians, though they are a stereotyped group. They are anything but the shy, pocket-protector in the shirt types. My favorite is the local children’s librarian. She stages all kinds of shows, plays and skits with the kids all summer long. She has the patience of a saint. The only time I saw her get upset, she uttered the deeply vulgar expletive, “double darn!”

There are all kinds of “double darns” being floated by librarians across the country. The new Patriot Act calls for them to make available to the FBI and other Federal agencies the records of books that Americans borrow. If you’ve recently picked up a copy of “Flying a Jetliner into a Building for Dummies,” a Federal Agent might come knocking on your door.

This worried me so I took a look at the stack of books on my nightstand. Since most summer evenings find me reading outdoors, I was concerned about what the FBI might think of my reading choices if they show up on my balcony.

My pal Chester County author Lisa Scottoline is one of my favorites. She’s not too subversive and actually flatters the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a tough thing to do. David McCullough’s “1776” is full of patriotism so I guess I’m safe there. I could be in trouble with “What Ifs? Of American History” a collection of essays that re-writes the outcome of things like the Battle of Gettysburg and the Cuban Missile Crisis. And then I bought a title last month that most publishers wouldn’t allow to be printed in their newspapers. That could be a problem.

How could we “double darn” that Patriot Act? It exists to protect us from terrorists lingering in our midst and there can be no doubt that they are here.

Without checking anyone’s library cards before the September 11th attacks Federal agents were suspicious of Mohammed Atta and his gang of deranged demons. Despite that on the saddest day in American history they succeeded in murdering 3,000 innocent people.

Didn’t that double darn FBI Agent Coleen Rowley of the Minneapolis field office insist that upon the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui in August of 2001 the agency should have been suspicious? They had in custody a young militant Muslim who had contacted a flight school. He just wanted to learn to steer a jetliner, no take offs or landings necessary.

Now double darn Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon for reporting that in the summer of 2000, a US Army intelligence operation code-named “Able Danger” knew that Atta and three other thugs were al-Qaeda operatives here in America. Their charts even included photos of the four men. It was recommended to Army brass that the FBI be informed. Whatever disasters they may be plotting, apparently it is illegal for Army intelligence to investigate foreigners once they are in this country so no report was made.

While the government claims it has not used the provisions of the Patriot Act that snoop on what we borrow, the American Library Association says: “double darn that!” One hundred thirty-seven of their members have received subpoenas for records of books borrowed.

All the experts claim that someday it’s highly likely there’s going to be a horrible repetition of September 11. Our borders are sieves, our agencies still don’t collaborate on intelligence, INS monitoring of aliens in this country is virtually non-existent and Congress’ answer to all of this is to spy on our library cards. Double darn!

Albert Paschall
Senior Fellow
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.

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