Freedom Fighter

Freedom Fighter

Picture this: You go into the local library, drop off the kids at story hour and browse the Internet while you wait. You follow a couple of leads, track a few sources, read some international takes on American foreign policy. Later that day the FBI pays a visit to your local librarian to check what you read. You are now part of a secret investigation pertaining to "the enforcement of federal laws," none of which you have violated. Unlikely? Carolyn Additon Anthony '71 doesn't think so.

By Ru Freeman

Carolyn Additon Anthony '71 commits herself each day to opposing the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act. Anthony has stated her case on both CNN and PBS, has been featured in Time magazine and was quoted in the Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, The Observer, Liberation of France and on German radio. This fall the National Film Board of Canada asked her to appear in a documentary.

So who is the person garnering all this press? A Bush administration foe from the Left? A civil libertarian from the Right? Neither. Carolyn Anthony is a librarian.

As director of the Skokie, Ill., Public Library, Anthony has attracted international attention in the civil-rights debate that has spread like wildfire since the Patriot Act was enacted barely eight weeks after 9/11.

This isn't as unlikely as it might seem at first glance: it is librarians who have emerged as some of the most strident critics of what they see as the Patriot Act's significant infringements on civil rights. And Anthony is, by all accounts, a dynamo.

Her library in Skokie was one of the first to post signs informing people of the Patriot Act and the inability of the library to protect the personal information of its patrons. Anthony also had software installed in the library that purges all records of the previous Internet user when a new person logs on. That step caught the attention of The New York Times, which ran a story about Anthony and her concerns. She's been on the phone and on the road ever since.

Named Illinois Librarian of the Year for 2003, Anthony travels throughout the state to deliver speeches and attend forums, take part in debates and make presentations. She recently participated in a panel discussion of the First Amendment sponsored in part by the International Press Club of Chicago.

She may be in demand, but critics of the act are hardly in short supply.

The Patriot Act met with immediate outcry from several quarters, including lawmakers on both sides of the Congressional aisle, the far Right within the American Civil Liberties Union and a host of groups bent on defending the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. As of this writing, more than 200 cities (including Waterville), towns and counties and three states had passed resolutions opposing the Patriot Act. Among the opposition leaders is the American Library Association, which issued a resolution opposing the act as "a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users." Attorney General John Ashcroft said the ALA and others were fueling "baseless hysteria" by so vehemently criticizing the new law.
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