Mitch (Maurice) Freedman was President of the American Library Association (ALA) from 2002-2003. Under his leadership, the ALA became hostile toward federal law-enforcement agencies trying to enforce provisions of the Patriot Act. Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows judges to grant a court order for a person’s library records if the FBI believes he or she may be involved in terrorist activities. As reported in a FrontPageMagazine.com article by Paul Walfield, Freedman called the Act a product of the vast right-wing conspiracy, even though it passed the U.S., Senate by a vote of 99-1. “Looking for terrorists in a public library,” said Freedman, “is just part of an overall strategy to diminish civil liberties of American citizens.”
In a speech he gave to the West Virginia Library Association on October 29, 2001, Freedman said, “I fear that the attack on the World Trade Center is now resulting in attacks on basic American values of liberty, privacy, and fairness.” “Unfortunately,” he added, “there is little the ALA can do to protect citizens of foreign nationalities, cab drivers, and others in the U.S. from being beaten up or worse simply because of their national origin or ethnicity. As librarians you can play a role by making available information and scheduling programs that teach about Islam, liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and, in general, counsel tolerance and understanding.”
Freedman also complained that the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires libraries to filter Internet terminals for inappropriate material such as pornography, violates the ideals of intellectual freedom and keeps adults and library staff from viewing such material as well. He said the ALA had committed more than $1 million to fight CIPA.
In June of 2002, the ALA took sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, condemning Israel and demanding that the United States and other nations do all they could to “prevent further destruction of libraries and cultural resources” in Palestinian territories by Israel. When confronted with the fact that any destruction at the time took place during a war (the so-called intifada by the Palestinians against Israel), Freedman responded by saying, “ALA policy does not differentiate between deliberate or unintentional destruction. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, justified or unjustified, the destruction of libraries, library collections, and property [is deplored by the ALA].” No condemnation of terrorists was made by the ALA, just a condemnation of Israel’s defensive measures. To underscore his anti-Israeli views, President Freedman screened a documentary about Noam Chomsky and a speech by Amy Goodman, the far-left hostess of the Democracy Now radio show, at a January 2003 ALA meeting.
Regarding the 2003 war against Iraq, Freedman and the ALA blamed America for the vandalism and looting that Iraqis did to their libraries in the midst of that conflict. The ALA website declared, “The National Library and Archives of Iraq and the principal Islamic library were destroyed last week by looters and arsonists. Reports indicated that the libraries were unguarded at the time of their destruction.” Freedman said, “The American Library Association grieves for and deplores the catastrophic losses to Iraq’s cultural heritage that have already occurred with the destruction of the National Library Archives and the Islamic library. Cultural heritage is as important as oil. Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy and are vital resources in the re-establishment of a civil society. We urge the administration to ensure that in the future the necessary resources will be made available to prevent further catastrophes.”
For Freedman and the ALA, not risking American lives to protect Iraq’s libraries during the war was unconscionable.
Parts of this profile were adapted from the article “The ALA Library: Terrorist Sanctuary,” written by Paul Walfield and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on May 8, 2003.