Tense standoff at a Newton library following threatening email

FBI and Newton police were involved in a tense standoff with Newton Free Library officials last week.

Librarian, Kathy Glick-Weil, refused to allow law enforcement access to library computers during an investigation into an imminent terrorist threat targeting Brandeis University.

The standoff lasted 10 hours, ending when law enforcement received a court issued warrant. whdh.com has more and Rich pointed to one at The Boston Herald.

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Standing Ground

Thank you goes out to this librarian/director for not buckling to the police. It is amazing what law enforcement will attempt with the hope that people do not understand the laws protecting them.

Load of crap

The articles paint an awfully one sided picture little librarians teach big government a lesson about search warrants. Of course it is all nonsense and the librarian and Mayor are lucky they are not behind bars.

Before you go flying off the handle about what a Fascist I am think about it, if it were a threat emailed to your child's school would you want the library to lock the computers away to preserve evidence, or would you like your library's IT guy going through them as opposed to trained forensic computer specialist?

Exigent circumatances...that the data that identifies the sender of the threat both electronic and physical evidence, may be lost if the computers are left in use certainly authorizes the authorities to seize them without a warrant. It is not like a bloody hammer left at a crime scene. Computers have dynamic memory and that memory is subject to being overwritten if the computers are used by the public during the pendency of the investigation. Embargoing the computers - making the inaccessible to the public and staff, and removing their connection to the network (albeit after the relevent network addressing information was recorded) is the least intrusive action that could have been taken. In this case the computers must be preserved in a state as close to that as they were in when the threat was sent. No use other than forensic examination should be permitted to preserve evidence.

It is obvious, and should have been obvious to the librarian and Mayor that a crime serious enough to warrant the evacuation of Brandeis University and an elementary school had taken place and that capturing the criminal was of the utmost importance. Their failure to assist the police, in fact the direct opposition of the official actions of law enforcement is in itself a crime. As the investigation was time critical steps should have been taken to assure the integrity of the machines and frankly that is beyond the scope of most librarian's training.

The remark by the ACLU spokesperson is laughable, the librarians do not know more than law enforcement about warrants. A warrant was not needed to secure the evidence, removal and forensic examination may have required a warrant after the evidence was secured, but to say that the librarians knew more than the police is absurd.

The remark by the Mayor is not simply laughable but reveals the sad state that Newton is in if they feel that was one of their finest moments. They apparently are working against law enforcement rather than with them for the protection of our children.

Protecting evidence of a Felony is of paramount importance, the library director and the Mayor impeded that protection of evidence. Protecting library patron privacy is important, but a civil action can address any violation of patron privacy. Terrorist threats that force University students and school children out into freezing weather, disrupt the normal functioning of the schools, endangered the public and police officers as they responded to the schools with lights flashing and sirens blaring because they must treat each and every terrorist threat as real, cannot be addressed in civil court. Criminal court is where the perpetrators of these crimes belong, and the library director and Mayor may have given the criminal a helping hand by delaying access to the computers.

If the FBI comes into my library and tells me a terrorist threat has come from one of the computers I will close the computer room, disconnect the network connection, and give them the fax and phone numbers so they can give it to a judge to authorize the seizure and examination of the computers. Neither patron privacy nor evidence will be compromised that way.

Do you want a Mayor and library head that obstruct the police and think themselves lawyers, or do you want people who do the right thing? I am delighted I don't live in Newton.

Re:Load of crap

I am sorry. No warrant, no computers.

Re:Load of crap

What do you base this on, your personal feelings? Exigent circumstances allow the embargoing of the computers.

Re:Standing Ground

You certainly are right about the laws protecting people, few know about them.

Who was protecting the University and elementary school students in Newton from further attacks of this type? It sure is not the Mayor or library director.

While I am not a fan of wikipedia for its lack of authority perhaps the librarian and Mayor would like to read the part about exigent circumstance. (N.B. I am about to edit the stub).

Let me be clear that I am not advocating turning over the computers without a search, but simply protecting any evidence they may contain until the warrant is obtained and from the articles it seems that the librarian and Mayor failed to do that.

Re:Standing Ground

I did not read anything in the article that suggested the computer was not protected by the library, until a warrant was brought back.

Re:Standing Ground

They let their staff member access the computers. That is certainly not protecting the evidence. At a homocide they don't let the husband remove the body.

I don't see anything in the article that says they made any effort to safeguard the evidence and since the article is written to put the library in the best light I would assume that it would be included.

Of course a bit of hyperbole was used in my first comment as I know this is not a murder, but perhaps the IT person did it, why would they simply not embargo the computers and disconnect them from the network.

It is obvious that this library has no policy for dealing with investigative inquiries, and they simply did what they thought was correct. Had they had such a policy the first contact would have been library counsel not the Mayor. That is yet another failure on the part of the Newton Library.

Oh, and from my personal experience most warrants of this type are initally telephonic and perfectly valid. Not involving the library's lawyer is most certainly a failure, assuming of course they have counsel.

Re:Standing Ground

They let their staff member access the computers. That is certainly not protecting the evidence. At a homocide they don't let the husband remove the body.

I don't see anything in the article that says they made any effort to safeguard the evidence and since the article is written to put the library in the best light I would assume that it would be included.

The article did not say the library staff accessed the computer. It said they offered to have their technician look at it and give the information to the FBI, but the police/FBI declined. Why can you not assume they waited until the warrant arrived before anyone touched the system, since you assumed they did touch the system? The article does not suggest either situation occurred.

I agree with mdoneil

Absolutely, the library should have secured the computers and provided the police with a "command center" -- and coffee, I'll add -- while they obtained the warrant. With the library director in constant contact with the library's attorney, of course. The Newton Free Library's policies explicitly state that people who commit illegal acts with the library's computers may be subject to prosecution, so cooperation with police is a matter of library policy in addition to state and/or federal statutes and human decency.

I do have to wonder why the warrant took so long, though (is that the usual wait?), and why the process wasn't already in play before the police showed up at the library.

Re:Standing Ground

Whether the police can seize the evidence without a warrant is one issue but having the library's computer tech "gather" the evidence and give it to the police is absolutely not a viable option.Many areas of a computer's memory, registers, cache, etc. can be changed or erased simply in the act of the tech accessing the system. Only a highly skilled forensic computer examiner can search for evidence without damaging it.This offer indicates that the librarian felt she knew more about computers than the police did. That is not her specialty and she should not exceed her authority. I am a library science student and I know better than to pretend I am also a computer scientist.The best policy is to freeze the computer or, if need be, the system, until the legal issues are settled.

Re:Standing Ground

Why do all you librarians hate america so much?

Re:Load of crap

Wow. You must really like the ripped from the headlines drama of Law & Order and CSI.It is YOUR understanding of criminal procedure that is laughable. And I hope I or any other librarian ever has to work for you as an administrator.My suggestion, quit the profession.

Re:Load of crap

Who are you talking to AP? I was a police officer in Tampa and I have a law degree (albeit from TCD) so I think I have a fairly good grasp of the rules of evidence.

CSI is silly, they sequence DNA in 20 minutes and I haven't seen Law and Order since Jerry Orbach died. It has gone downhill since they added Iced Tea or whatever his name is.

My suggestion, proof read your posts. You said you want to work for me and I wouldn't hire someone who does not have the guts to sign his own posts.

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