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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

A Selective Invasion of Privacy

March 07, 2003

Re "Ashcroft's Russian Roulette," editorial, March 5: After reading your editorial, I found it impossible to swallow my outrage along with my morning coffee. In the attorney general's twisted sense of righteous wisdom, he cries "invasion of privacy" against any attempt by law enforcement to use a database for a background check of gun purchasers but he wants libraries and bookstores to hand over their records of individuals' reading preferences. It seems in the world according to John Ashcroft, guns don't kill people, books do.

Barbara Dobkin

Los Angeles

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Re "U.S. Expands Clandestine Surveillance Operations," March 5:

The Justice Department's expanded surveillance powers are a threat to the 4th Amendment, which prohibits unlawful searches, and should not be tolerated by the Supreme Court. Sept. 11 is being exploited by the government to increase its power in a way that should concern anyone who cares about our Constitution, and the sphere of individual privacy is diminishing almost to the point of nonexistence. The kind of excessive secrecy surrounding our federal law enforcement agencies is anathema to the best traditions of American government and should be opposed.

David Kerby

Studio City

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Re "Book Snoopers' Open Door," editorial, March 2: All Americans should be concerned. Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, allowing the FBI to demand records of books and tapes a customer buys or borrows, is a blatant assault on our civil liberties. Ashcroft has insisted that all information about Section 215 of the act is classified and therefore not available for public scrutiny. I recall the words of Patrick Henry, one of the greatest of our patriots, who said, "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."

Harold Savage

San Diego

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