FC: SUNY librarian advises colleagues to restrict NRC microfiche

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Mon Feb 25 2002 - 09:08:54 PST

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    Previous messages:
    "U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal government"
    "GPO replies to Politech article on libraries destroying data"
    I invite Mary Bennett to reply to the list. (Mary, I'm interested in 
    finding out what prompted your alert.)
    Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 10:21:42 -0600
    From: "Don Wood" <dwoodat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Subject: ALAWON: Volume 11, Number 9
    ALAWON: American Library Association Washington Office Newsline
    Volume 11, Number 9
    February 21, 2002
    In This Issue: A Message from GPO
    The ALA Washington Office has received the following notice from the
    Government Printing office and is forwarding it to you, for your
    The Library Programs Service has been notified that many of you have 
    received an email message from Mary Bennett of the State University of New 
    York, Oswego, urging you to restrict public access to a portion of your 
    depository library collections, specifically the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
    Commission (NRC) publications on microfiche.
    Please be advised that Ms. Bennett has no authority to make such a request. 
    Only the Superintendent of Documents has the authority to request that 
    depository libraries withdraw or secure publications in their depository 
    collections.  No such official request has been made.
    Furthermore, the NRC has not requested GPO to direct depository libraries 
    to take any actions regarding the NRC microfiche.  GPO remains in close 
    contact with NRC officials concerning these materials.
    The U.S. Government Printing Office takes its responsibility to assure free 
    public access to depository library collections very seriously.  We do not 
    condone this unofficial request to restrict public access, and we urge you 
    to disregard it.
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 14:38:53 -0500
    From: "Christie Vernon" <CHRISTIEat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Cc: <mmatisat_private>
    Subject: GPO's "Water Resources....." being withdrawn
    Dear Declan:
    I was forwarded a note from you in which you expressed your outrage (fair 
    enough) at the feds demanding back the document on U.S. water resources. 
    You described l300 libraries as 'rolling over.' [That was a forwarded 
    message, not my view. --DBM]
    Two things, to clarify: if the library received the gov. doc. through the 
    depository system, it is always the property of the feds, and they can do 
    what they want to with it. EVEN SO, libraries resist.
    If the library bought the document, they are not obliged to give it back.
    As a result of this order, there was resentment, resistance, and hot 
    discussion in the whole library community, esp. at the midwinter meetings 
    in January.
    The library community is highly resistant to this sort of thing and fights 
    it all the way. I won't go into details. I am sure many groups, including 
    feds, wish we were more tractable!
    Christie Vernon
    CPSR Activist, and Member, American Library Assoc. Committee on
    Christie D. Vernon, Ed.D.
    Editor, STC Newsletter
    10 Basil Sawyer Dr.
    Hampton, VA 23666
    (757) 766-5835
    FX (757) 865-1294
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 10:28:52 -0500
    To: declanat_private
    From: Peter Suber <petersat_private>
    Subject: Re: FC: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal 
             Eric Cordian writes that "libraries cheerfully complied" with 
    government orders to destroy information in federal depository 
    libraries.  This is unfair to librarians.  These requests anger and 
    frustrate librarians, who genetically want maximum access to maximum 
    information.  Compliance with these orders is definitely cheerless and 
    For example, here's a recent story about University of Illinois librarians 
    facing this dilemma,
    Peter Suber
    The Free Online Scholarship Newsletter
    [Anonymized per request. --DBM]
    Questions to ask the GPO--
    * Is it true that USGS "never asked that libraries destroy the
    * Did GPO offer USGS the option GPO says they give agencies
      to "request libraries pull and hold until further notice"?
    * Did GPO say "they couldn't expect libraries to maintain security?"
    * What committee at USGS sets official policy on restriction of
      sensitive information and was it informed that one option was
      to request libraries pull and hold until further notice?
    * We are told that the "original written instructions" from USGS
      to GPO were valid. Were they also issued -- with the understanding
      of their options?
    Another article on the order to destroy the USGS CD-ROM, "Source Area
    Characteristics of Large Public Surface-Water Supplies in the
    Conterminous United States An Information Resource on Source Water
    Assessment, 1999" (I 19.7699-248 USGS Open-File Report no. 99-248)
    adds to the confusion about what USGS wanted FDLP to do.
    See this article--
    "U.S. orders libraries to destroy key CD-ROM" By Inger Sandal
    ARIZONA DAILY STAR Sunday, January 13, 2002
    This article claims that Geological Survey spokesman Butch Kinerney
    "said his agency never asked that libraries destroy the information."
    Earlier, Francis Buckley had said that Geological Survey
    Associate Director for Water had followed GPO procedures and
    requested that the CD be destroyed. GPO procedures
    require an official request in writing and inform the requesting agency
    of "recall options" including "Request libraries pull and hold until
    further notice" (Admin Notes 11/15/2001
    Those admin notes quote Patterson of USGS as saying--
      "Subsequent contact with the Government Printing Office and the USGS
      Committee that sets official policy on restriction of sensitive
      information has reconfirmed the validity of the original written
      instruction from USGS to GPO to destroy the report..." [elision in
    The only document I could find on the USGS web site that seems to deal
    with "official policy on restriction of senstive information" was
    "POLICY -- Release of Data and Information under the Freedom of Information 
    It makes only one reference to non-proprietary sensitive information even 
    in the case of an FOIA exemption--
    Exemption I--Matters of National Defense or Foreign Policy
    This exemption is rarely used for WRD actions. Typically, information
    may be withheld if there may be security concerns. For example,
    classified mapping products or sensitive information concerning
    international water resources activities, such as the Middle East
    Peace Initiative, or potentially sensitive military information.
    The ADS article also mentions that--
    Advocates for greater public access complain that even though four
    months have passed since the Sept. 11 attacks, formerly public
    information continues to disappear haphazardly and without
    ...it quotes Gary Bass of OMBWatch on the difficulty of even knowing
    to what we are losing access--
    OMB Watch's Web site now includes an inventory listing material known
    to have been removed or restricted since Sept. 11. "It's very difficult
    to maintain this kind of list you don't know what you don't know,"
    Bass said.
    Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 21:52:33 -0700
    From: "James J. Lippard" <lippardat_private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
    Subject: Re: FC: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal 
    According to this document, there are a couple of such requests a year:
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 09:47:17 -0500
    From: Jeffrey Clark <clarkjcat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal 
    Before challenging libraries on their compliance with a federal order to 
    destroy conbtroversial documents, those who think like Eric Cordian need to 
    be aware of one salient fact. Libraries desginated as federal depositories 
    for government documents are in a contractual arrangement: they do not in 
    fact "own" the documents. These remain the property of the federal 
    government. So it's the government's call on this one... whether or not the 
    library community would otherwise agree with restricting information in 
    this way.
    Jeff Clark
    Media Resources (MSC 1701)
    James Madison University
    From: "Allen Smith" <easmithat_private>
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 09:22:39 -0500
    To: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>, dwoodat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal 
    Cc: emcat_private
    On Feb 12, 11:35pm, Declan McCullagh wrote:
     > The American Library Association's code of ethics for librarians says:
     > http://www.ala.org/alaorg/oif/ethics.html
     > >We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all
     > >efforts to censor library resources.
    Indeed. The problem with "government document collections" is, IIRC,
    that the _physical materials_ in question are owned by the US
    government, not by the libraries in question. Therefore, the
    government does have the right to say what is done with said materials
    (except as any laws governing government document collections may
    state). Note, however, "physical materials" in the above. Government
    information is generally public domain - not copyrightable. Making an
    electronic copy of all materials (especially, given ease of copying,
    that which is already in electronic form) which comes into government
    document collections would entirely remove the ability of government
    to so easily later have such information destroyed - and would be
    perfectly legal. As the son of a former government documents
    librarian, I recommend this as a general policy.
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 06:33:28 -0600
    To: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
    Subject: FC: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal government
    Hi Declan,
    Quick point, which will probably be made more authoritatively by other 
    readers (but please keep me anon if you do print this):
    The post to cypherpunks about federal depository libraries is somewhat 
    misleading because it doesn't describe the ways in which the federal 
    documents are a unique collection within the library. Essentially, a 
    library which acts as a depository has agreed to store federal documents 
    and grant public access to those documents - but it does not in fact OWN 
    those federal documents.  They remain under the ownership of the federal 
    government.  The comparison of government docs to "The Turner Diaries," 
    "Why Buildings Fall Down," or "Heather Has Two Mommies" is a specious one, 
    since those texts would presumably be purchased by the library rather than 
    merely borrowed from an original owner; in the case of federal docs, the 
    government is simply asking the libraries to please destroy government 
    property, which is a contractual obligation of their role as depositories.
    It's also misleading to say that this is without precedent.  The government 
    has asked for federal docs to be destroyed in the past; the significant 
    difference now is that it's asking for current, relevant federal docs to be 
    destroyed, rather than outdated information.
    I'm absolutely opposed to the government's attack on public information and 
    on our hard-won right-to-know laws, but it's important that we get all of 
    the facts straight.  The real issue here isn't that libraries (private and 
    public) are abandoning their principles and destroying items in their 
    collections at the behest of the government.  The real issue, rather, is 
    that our government is now denying public access to information which has 
    been printed and distributed with public money - information to which 
    public access has often been won only after extended legislative, 
    regulatory, or legal battles on behalf of the public interest.  We've seen 
    decades' worth of hard-won citizen victories on government (and corporate) 
    accountability evaporate, quietly, within mere months.
    Hi Declan,
    One additional point:  I disagree with the characterization that "Libraries 
    cheerfully complied" with the government directive to destroy government 
    documents.  I don't know of any cases of resistance, but I do know that 
    some of the government docs librarians in my institution did not support 
    the decision.  At least one of them is even a Politech reader.
    I suppose it would be nice to think that some of those CD-ROMs are still 
    intact out there.  I don't blame librarians for complying with their 
    contractual (legal) obligations in this case, however, and the gospel truth 
    is that libraries are not to blame for the government's attack on public 
    access to information.  Criticizing libraries as "cheerful" accomplices is 
    not only disrespectful to the many librarians who are true champions of 
    freedom of information; it also distracts us from the real threat at hand.
    Best wishes.
    From: terry.sat_private
    To: declanat_private
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 00:13:33 -0500
    Subject: Re: FC: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal 
    On Tue, 12 Feb 2002 21:56:09 -0500 Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
     > The American Library Association's code of ethics for librarians
     > says:
     > http://www.ala.org/alaorg/oif/ethics.html
     > >We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all
     > >efforts to censor library resources.
    We might recall the battles in Boston when CyberPatrol marketed to public
    libraries there, despite MA state law requiring adherence to ALA
    I ran across a posting of the ALA code in an unexpected place recently, a
    state law library in a courthouse.  It turns out that was prompted by a
    judge objecting to the content of an article published in the only CT
    state law journal, who in turn ordered subscriptions to that journal such
    libraries are obligated to treat as an essential part of their
    collections discontinued.  The corrupt judge found he couldn't directly
    enforce that demand, but did defund judicial management funds formerly
    available for such subscriptions.  At some of CT's state law libraries,
    private donations now fund the same subscriptions, though the more legal
    and ethical solution would have been disbarment of the corrupt judge,
    acting in his official capacity.
    That type of corruption invites the question of what effective means can
    we enact to terminate judges who act out of political or personal
    prejudices rather than professionally as justices?  Absent that, can we
    ever hope to hold lesser levels of government responsible?
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 07:51:28 -0500
    To: declanat_private
    From: "J.D. Abolins" <jda-irat_private>
    Subject: Re: FC: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal 
    At 09:56 PM 2/12/02 -0500, you wrote:
     > The American Library Association's code of ethics for librarians says:
     > http://www.ala.org/alaorg/oif/ethics.html
     >> We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all
     >>efforts to censor library resources.
    Thank you for mentioning that ethics item. I wonder what would happen if a 
    librarian refused to destroy the CDs or made backups. Perhaps the 
    government would blacklist the library form getting further public 
    documents and/or try to pull any federal funding for the library's 
    "unpatriotic" act.
     > From: Eric Cordian <emcat_private>
     > Subject: Libraries Cull Collections to Make Feds Happy
     > To: cypherpunksat_private
     > Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 16:38:35 -0800 (PST)
     > Maybe we need a program to certify people as "Trusted Citizens"
     > in order to enable their access to forbidden technologies like
     > chemistry and encryption.
    I am not laughing. That is a significant likelihood down the line as 
    security classification's "need to know" is being applied to normally 
    unclassified public information. (By the way, this is a big kicker. The 
    more traditional classification approaches assume that once a document is 
    declassified or its level is reduced, most of the advantages of hiking up 
    the classification are lost. Information deemed sensitive was classified 
    before released to the public.
    The content security concerns for public info started months before 
    September 2001 with the emergency planning info from the US environmental 
    "right to know" data. The approach to prevent "terrorists" from accessing 
    the information was to keep the documents in certain libraries and require 
    people to request access to them. The core concept was that if people want 
    to see certain public information documents, they have to come forth and 
    identify themselves. (At several periods in modern times, there have been 
    "library awareness" programs where the government has sought info from 
    librarians about patrons who sought certain types of books or fit a 
    particular profile.)
    Now, we move to another core concept: Don't let libraries have certain 
    government documents and if they do have them, have the libraries destroy 
    the records. Will the day soon come when people who purchased books such as 
    "Applied Cryptography" via, say, Amazon.com to rip out and burn certain 
    pages? <g>
    Looking at some trends in digital rights management and electronic 
    publishing (plus legal trends with DMCA and the proposed SSSCA), future 
    publication of government public information might swing towards new 
    e-formats with DRM that allow remote virtual redaction. For example, the 
    info could have encryption keys that expire within a year and need to be 
    renewed. If the info is deemed to be too sensitive for the particular 
    person to have anymore, the key is not renewed or revoked. A variant could 
    be a heartbeat approach where the e-document checks back to an 
    authorization server.
    Hackable? Yes, even if goes back to manual transcription. (Once I used a 
    hand scanner to capture the screen display on another computer. Crude but 
    it does work.) This still leaves legal and other repercussions.
    Quick kids, memorize the value of pi to at least 5 decimal places and the 
    periodic table before they are redacted fro "security" reasons. <g>
    J.D. Abolins
    From: "Richard Storey" <richardsat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Subject: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal government
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 10:14:07 -0500
    Right.  What about the removal of, The Secret Team, by Fletchard Prouty,
    from libraries across the country as well as the disappearance of the book
    from book stores and the cancellation of the contract with the publisher?
    This was the testimony of Prouty himself on a radio show. The Canadian gov.
    made the importation of the book illegal (at the behest of Big Brother CIA,
    of course).
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 11:00:54 -0500
    From: Tom Maguire <tmidslat_private>
    Reply-To: tmidslat_private
    Well this may seem like someone's good idea. I am sure it's
    intentions were well founded.
    The enemy within is the one from whom we have the most to
    fear. Who is more trusted than your Postman yet what is the
    definition of "Going Postal". People bent on doing wrong
    will do so no matter what and will even be creative about it
    from halfway around the world with no research available
    just as well as from a trusted position within.
    Maybe we don't need detailed nuclear weapon plans in
    libraries. People who study such things should have to pass
    the same muster as someone requesting a permit to carry a
    handgun in NYC. You have to have a very good reason, no
    criminal record, pass a psychological profile and leave the
    examining officer with a warm fuzzy feeling. If there is an
    ethical problem with restricting access to info maybe they
    should review the NYC gun laws first. After all, the right
    to arms was guaranteed.
    One can only ponder the Post-Enron definition of "Getting
    Tom Maguire
    TMI Engineering
    From: "Charles Aldarondo" <aldarondoat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    References: <20020212215609.A4516at_private>
    Subject: Re: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal government
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 12:50:33 -0600
    On the item that got withdrawn, it seems that some of the information is
    still available (which I probably got tracked for downloading):
    Page 9 has a nice 1/2 page graphic of the US with markings of where the
    points are and discusses the CD-ROM. It doesn't though provide the details
    of the measurements of water flows, but enough information if any terrorist
    was really interested in finding these water reservoirs. One example of it's
    difficult to delete the past, because it's referenced throughout other
    Charles Aldarondo
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 20:00:28 -0800
    From: Mike Ege <mtegeat_private>
    Subject: Re: FC: U.S. libraries cull collections at behest of federal 
    To: declanat_private
    Indiana University memo on GPO recalls.
    Lists other recalled docs since 1995.
    this issue is overblown.
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