Protect Core Freedoms
Advocacy and campaigns
PEN American Center
A branch of the Whatcom County Library in rural Washington State receives a visit from the FBI. An agent demands that the Library provide the names of everyone who has taken out a book entitled Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America. The librarian refuses to give information without a court order or a subpoena.
The Whatcom Librarian and her board fought the subpoena which called for the names and identifying information of all those who had borrowed the book since November 15, 2001. The librarian responded by saying, “Libraries are a haven where people should be able to seek what information they want to pursue without any threat of government intervention.” The FBI finally backed down, and PEN conferred on the Library the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award. PEN’s Campaign for Core Freedoms went on to win the restoration of important due process protections for library and bookstore searches under the Patriot Act. On October 3rd, 2006, PEN President Ron Chernow delivered a petition to Capitol Hill expressing concerns over continuing government surveillance, threats against the press, and the use of torture and cruel and unusual punishment. The Campaign for Core Freedoms also advocates bringing greater press scrutiny to bear on U.S. antiterrorism operations.