Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 3 August 2004

Topic: The Law

Ignorance of the law is no excuse... an odd little item that caught my eye...

Note this press release from the American Library Association -
For Immediate Release
July 30, 2004

Statement from ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman on the destruction of Department of Justice documents

CHICAGO -- The following statement has been issued by President-Elect Michael Gorman, representing President Carol Brey-Casiano, who is currently in Guatemala representing the Association:

Last week, the American Library Association learned that the Department of Justice asked the Government Printing Office Superintendent of Documents to instruct depository libraries to destroy five publications the Department has deemed not "appropriate for external use." The Department of Justice has called for these five public documents, two of which are texts of federal statutes, to be removed from depository libraries and destroyed, making their content available only to those with access to a law office or law library.

The topics addressed in the named documents include information on how citizens can retrieve items that may have been confiscated by the government during an investigation. The documents to be removed and destroyed include: Civil and Criminal Forfeiture Procedure; Select Criminal Forfeiture Forms; Select Federal Asset Forfeiture Statutes; Asset forfeiture and money laundering resource directory; and Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA).

ALA has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the withdrawn materials in order to obtain an official response from the Department of Justice regarding this unusual action, and why the Department has requested that documents that have been available to the public for as long as four years be removed from depository library collections. ALA is committed to ensuring that public documents remain available to the public and will do its best to bring about a satisfactory resolution of this matter.

Librarians should note that, according to policy 72, written authorization from the Superintendent of Documents is required to remove any documents. To this date no such written authorization in hard copy has been issued.
Now wait a second here. This is mighty odd.

A hypothetical - as I live in Hollywood just off the Sunset Strip say that in a massive drug sweep I am arrested on suspicion of, say, laundering money for the low-life types down there, or given the history of the British movie star Hugh Grant, arrested for soliciting and actually employing one of them there ladies of the night in the relative privacy of my parked car on a quiet side street. (Yes, a number of years ago Grant got busted for just that three blocks east of here.) Whichever case, sex or drugs, I was in my car, which I rather like, actually. It was confiscated. They can do that - and have been doing that with "johns" who used to cruise the area looking for companionship with these ladies of the night. And that has been, by the way, very effective. That stuff stopped over the last several years. They scared away the customers. You could lose you car forever - sometimes even if you were cleared of all charges. There's been some controversy about that, but it has happened - and still happens. Anyway, whatever the charge in my hypothetical case, I'm cleared. They discover that I'm really a harmless nobody - which everyone knew anyway - and the authorities after a time drop all charges and send me on my way. And then I think, maybe, I can get my car back. It's worth a shot.

So how do I get my cute little black convertible back - if they haven't sold it at auction and used the profits to buy more gizmos for their police cruisers? I need a lawyer - because the laws - and the applicable procedures and forms - have been withdrawn from public access. I'm not supposed to see them. They are not appropriate for external use. This is not a do-it-yourself thing anymore at all.

What the heck - it only adds a bit of expense. And lawyers have to eat too. And maybe these things are too complicated and dangerous for us civilians.

I just hate not knowing things, and being told I'm not supposed to know things.

I should be more trusting. The Department of Justice must have its reasons for hiding selected statutes and procedures from the public, to which they apply - calling for all copies to be destroyed - and must be right in not explaining those reasons to anyone.

But it bothers me.

On the other hand, no one wants to be a pain in the ass, always asking questions and seeming to know so much more than he or she should. That really puts people off - and we are, after all, at war and pesky impertinent questions aid the terrorists who want to kill us all... or something.

This is a minor issue - one of the most minor. Add it to all else that has happened in the last almost three years with the Patriot Act and whatnot and you could get all paranoid about some sort of creeping police state.

Not here. Not here. You just have to trust those in power and not rock the boat.

Posted by Alan at 21:23 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 3 August 2004 21:36 PDT home

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