Naked City

Libraries to DOJ: No Backsies!

On July 20, the U.S. Department of Justice – via the Government Printing Office – ordered the nation's federal depository libraries to "withdraw" and "destroy" selected government pamphlets in their collections that guide prosecutors handling cases that involve asset forfeiture – the feds' seizure of money and property from convicted felons, usually in drug cases. There are at least two depository libraries in each U.S. congressional district, which serve as clearinghouses for the majority of government publications. (In Austin, depositories include the State Library, the State Law Library, and UT's Perry-Castañeda Library.)

The pamphlets in question – which include riveting titles such as "Select Federal Asset Forfeiture Statutes," and "Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Resource Directory" – have been on library shelves for nearly four years, but the GPO, which administers the federal depository program, now says they were meant for DOJ's internal use only. "Both GPO and the [DOJ] regret any inconvenience resulting from this request and we appreciate your cooperation," GPO Superintendent of Documents Judith Russell wrote.

The request hasn't gone over so well with either the American Library Association or the advocacy group Forfeiture Endangers American Rights. The materials in question contain detailed legal info, including statutes and case histories "that would be of use to forfeiture victims in their fight to get their property back," says attorney and FEAR Board President Brenda Grantland. The ALA is also challenging the DOJ's order as an infringement on the "guarantee of public access" to unclassified government documents. "We are going to push the [DOJ] on this," the ALA's Patrice McDermott told The Boston Globe. "This material is already out there. We want to know the rationale for this."

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Weed Watch, Dept. of Justice, Government Printing Office, Forfeiture, Drug Reform Coordination Network

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