Libraries Should Be a Key Target of the Patriot Act

Posted: 12/5/2005 12:29:00 PM
Author: Deroy Murdock

Article dated: 4/25/2005

As Congress considers reauthorizing the Patriot Act, it explicitly should add libraries to the locations where federal investigators may hunt terrorists. Here are five reasons why: Marwan al Shehhi; Mohand, Wail, and Waleed Alshehri; and Mohamed Atta — September 11 hijackers, all.

Reference librarian Kathleen Hensmen remembers Wail and Waleed Alshehri's summer 2001 visit to the Delray Beach Public Library. Well-dressed, they resembled "the GQ of the Middle East" that evening, she tells me. Hensmen found them "very courteous, very friendly," although "they just sat at one computer, and they were staring at me, and I didn't understand why."

Hensmen had ethnic Arab neighbors in her native southeastern Michigan, though she rarely saw such folks at her library in southeastern Florida. "They [the Alshehri brothers] stood out in my mind because not many Middle Eastern people pass through here."

Marwan al-Shehhi arrived later, Hensmen says. That night, "he just sat at a table. He didn't ask for a computer." She says al-Shehhi asked her one question: "Can you recommend a good restaurant?"

Hensmen, new to Delray Beach, had few suggestions. "At that point," she adds, "a group of 'we nice Americans' who were sitting around said, 'Oh, I can recommend restaurants to you.' So, they were helping him, as I was busy signing people up for the computer, and doing my reference work, ordering books."

"When their pictures were published in the Miami Herald, that's when I broke down and cried," Hensmen says. "I lost it, knowing what they had done, and how we were so friendly towards them."

Additional evidence of the 9/11 hijackers' fondness for libraries has not fazed Patriot Act foes...

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