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Librarians Denounce Gag Order in Patriot Act Case

Four Connecticut librarians who were ordered not to discuss an FBI demand for patrons' records say they resent the fact that they were forbidden to speak while Congress was debating the issue as part of the renewal of the USA Patriot Act.

The gag order on the librarians was issued under what's known as a National Security Letter -- an administrative subpoena for records that the FBI can issue without prior court approval (more about NSLs below).

Librarians challenged the gag order with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. But before the lawsuit was fully litigated, prosecutors dropped their appeal, leading a judge to rescind the gag order on the librarians. Nonetheless, analysts say the gag-order option remains available for the government in future cases.

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Larry Abramson is NPR's National Security Correspondent. He covers the Pentagon, as well as issues relating to the thousands of vets returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.