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Throwing the Book at Gelernter

June 27, 2005

Re "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover, but We May Find a Terrorist by What He Reads," Commentary, June 24: David Gelernter's lesson taught me things I hadn't realized.

Privacy is an illusion, so get over it -- "thoughtcrime" is real. Hunches trump probable cause.

Terrorists need libraries to learn how to get box cutters on airplanes. (A compassionate plea: People who write bad things in the margins shouldn't be rounded up and shot.)

We're at war with Iraq, so Gelernter must be worried about his son getting drafted. His buddy Max Boot has a deep thought on that problem: Have the Minutemen funnel Mexicans into Baghdad, wearing "not-American-yet" uniforms, I would guess.

Tim Clark

Los Angeles

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Citizens can't participate in government without educating themselves on "sensitive" subjects. To know whether the government's course in the war on terrorism is sane, we must understand the roots of terrorism.

That requires reading up on subjects such as jihad. But if buying a book on jihad can mean a visit from the newly powerful FBI, many won't dare. If you're branded a terrorist and sent to Guantanamo, what recourse would you have these days?

Thus, letting the FBI snoop on what people read will keep citizens from demanding needed changes to the government's course. That will materially hurt the war on terrorism.

Ilya Shlyakhter

Princeton, N.J.

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Gelernter suggests that bookstores and libraries will become havens for terrorists if the provision of the Patriot Act that requires divulgence of patrons reading habits is allowed to lapse.

I am surprised that Gelertner does not just advise a book-burning party, aka "Fahrenheit 451," to solve the problem of the knowledge getting into the hands of terrorists!

Lawrence Turner

Glendora

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