Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


The shame of it all

[Adam updates: The reporter has recanted his story, “Federal agents’ visit was a hoax .”]

Apparently, the Staasi are watching what we read.

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s tome on Communism called “The Little Red Book.”
Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library’s interlibrary loan program.
The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand’s class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents’ home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.
The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a “watch list,” and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.
“I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book,” Professor Pontbriand said. “Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that’s what triggered the visit, as I understand it.”
Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public.

There’s more — including Professor Williams reconsidering teaching a class on terrorism out of fear that his students might get a knock at the door because of their classwork-related surfing.

One comment on "The shame of it all"

  • Jeff says:

    I am a librarian. If this story is true, I am very concerned about how the Dept. of Homeland Security obtained a library patron’s records. It is a violation of principle III of the American Library Association Code of Ethics to provide a library patron’s records to anyone without the patron’s consent. I would like to see the American Library Association take disciplinary action against librarians who violate our code of ethics.

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