Monday, January 4, 2010

Janet Napolitano vs Dionne Mack-Harvin; Open Request for Interview with Brooklyn Public Library Director Regarding CIPA Internet Filters and $2.5M in Undue Federal Funding

Janet Napolitano versus Dionne Mack-Harvin.  One is the US Department of Homeland Security [DHS] Director and the other is the Brooklyn Public Library [BPL] Director.  Both have provided obviously false misinformation either themselves or through their organizations.  But what separates them is that one corrected herself within days to help protect people and the other has never made corrections, leaving people in the very danger the law was designed to stop.  Who's who?

Janet Napolitano, the DHS Director

First, Janet Napolitano.  The United States suffered a Christmas 2009 terrorist attack, but hundreds of its citizens narrowly averted death by the sheer luck of a faulty explosive device that only operated as an incendiary device on board an airplane over Detroit.  This is the "panty bomber" case, explosive underwear pictured at top right.

The first reaction from the DHS Director was to say "one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked."

No, the system failed completely.  The terrorist just had a bad chemistry or bad timing day.  "The passengers reacted correctly," the Director said, as if our defense systems should depend on the passengers instead of the very system set up to defend the passengers.

But two days later the DHS Director correctly and appropriately changed her message:  "Our system did not work in this instance,' Napolitano said on the TODAY show this morning. 'No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.'"

The DHS Director deserves credit for changing her story, and quickly, to one that reflected reality.

Compare her actions to those of the BPL Director.

Dionne Mack-Harvin, the BPL Director

Dionne Mack-Harvin's actions stand in stark contrast to Janet Napolitano's.  The BPL Director has never acknowledged the problem with porn in her library.  This problem was revealed weeks ago in "Porn in Brooklyn Public Library; Frustrated Patron Provides Photographic Proof; Library Refuses to Act; Two and a Half Million Dollars in Jeopardy Due to Possible Fraud," among other places.

The BPL has suffered numerous incidents, including a retarded girl raped in the bathroom and no one even knowing this happened, porn clips inserted into numerous videos for children, and most recently, in news I broke, porn viewing in the presence of children with the library refusing to take action.  Yet the BPL Director has taken little action, if any, as evidenced by the continual nature of such incidents, the statements made by the library staff, and the failure to make changes such as changing the BPL filtering policies.

I notified the BPL, including the BPL Director herself, weeks ago.  I have received no response.

Passengers and Patrons ARE the Safety Systems, Supposedly

The DHS Director said the passengers's actions meant the system to protect passengers worked correctly.  In a strikingly similar policy, that same reasoning apparently applies in the BPL—the patrons's actions mean the system to protect the patrons worked correctly, at least according to a recent comment I got on my blog from "Jeff."

Jeff, a Brooklyn librarian, explained in a comment on my previous blog post that circumventing the law is not circumventing the law because of the excuse that the library delegated to the patrons the ability to disable Internet filters:

Paragraph 4: actually "an administrator, supervisor, or person authorized by the responsible authority..." can disable.  Doesn't have to be staff.  BPL authorizes the individual patron to disable.
Yes anyone on an adult computer can disable the filter without assistance.  And only adults can sign onto an adult computer.

Law Requires Library Personnel to Disable CIPA Filters, Not Patrons Themselves

Compare this with the law—"An authorized person may disable the blocking or filtering measure during any use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes."  It does not say the adult may disable the blocking or filtering measure during any use by himself.  The "authorized person" and the "adult" are separate people.

Compare this with US v. ALA—"Justice Kennedy concluded that if, as the Government represents, a librarian will unblock filtered material or disable the Internet software filter without significant delay on an adult user's request, there is little to this case."  As can be seen, a "librarian" does the unblocking "on an adult user's request."

Compare this with common sense—if an adult can disable a filter just by clicking a button on the pretext that the library authorized him to do so, then the law is being circumvented and becomes essentially worthless.

BPL Acknowledges Library Employees Must Disable Filters

Even apart from the law and common sense, the BPL itself acknowledges that CIPA-compliant filters must be disabled by library employees.  Read the following from BPL's "Internet Use Q & A," emphasis added:

3. Why is BPL using Internet filtering software on its public access computers?

The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires libraries receiving federal support for online technology to implement filters that block material considered obscene, child pornography, or, in the case of persons under the age of 17, harmful to minors. In September 2003, the BPL Board of Trustees decided to comply with CIPA. The U.S. Supreme Court held that CIPA is constitutional: unlimited adult access to the Internet will be possible, since adults may request that the filtering technology be disabled, and they need not explain the reason for the request. Thus, adult library users can continue to benefit from federal e-rate discounts, without experiencing undue interference with public Internet access.

Adults do not need to "request that filtering technology be disabled" if all they need to do is click an onscreen button.  Clearly, they must make that request of a person.

The BPL is fully aware that requests for disabling filters must be made to library employees.  It even says so in writing. 

Either Have CIPA-Compliant Filters Or Don't, But You Can't Have Both

A library is entitled to refuse filters or to use them in a non-CIPA compliant fashion, and it need not apply for CIPA funding, but it is not entitled to claim compliance in writing when it is not in compliance in practice.  It is not entitled to defraud the federal government by $2.5M.  In my opinion, when the library says one thing in writing, does another thing in practice, then claims $2.5M in funding based on what it does not practice but has in writing, that's fraud.

Privacy Screens Suffer from Similar Written Word/Actual Practice Dichotomy

And it is not the only example of things written being different from things in practice.  Recall the picture I displayed in the last blog post showing the man looking at porn.  Here it is again to the right.  Notice no "privacy screen" is being used.  Yet library policy requires, "All adults using computers designated for adults must use privacy screens."

The repeated nature of the BPL saying one thing in writing but doing another in practice is another factor that, in my opinion, tends to lead one to conclude the library's actions regarding CIPA compliance are not inadvertent.

The DHS Director Corrected Her Misstatements While the BPL Director Has Not

So, to sum up the issue of Janet Napolitano versus Dionne Mack-Harvin, the DHS Director got caught in a big lie but righted the wrong two days later, whereas the BPL Director got caught in a big lie (not personally but on the theory that she is responsible for what is happening in her library that she directs) and has yet to respond at all.  This is likely in an effort to wait till the matter blows over.  As an ALA Councilor recommended to another community, "The storm will die down when the media becomes bored and moves on to other issues."  Maybe it is the lack of press attention in the first place that is enabling the Director at this time.  I sure hope it is not just media ennui with another BPL porn story.

Dionne Mack-Harvin is Beloved In Her Community

I understand that BPL Director Dionne Mack-Harvin is truly beloved in her community.  She deserves a lot of respect.  That does not excuse either defrauding the federal government or misleading BPL patrons about the use of CIPA-compliant Internet filters.  Right now it appears to me that she is doing or allowing both.

Simple Honesty Would Evidence Community Interest by the BPL Director

Simple honesty like that exemplified by the DHS Director would go a long way toward showing the BPL Director's actions were community-minded instead of being in apparent furtherance of anti-filtering attitudes by some losing parties in US v. ALA.  Indeed, Janet Napolitano's honesty may be part of her possible elevation to the US Supreme Court.

It is a shame that a BPL patron, being put off by BPL staff, had to approach me for assistance.  Obviously something is wrong.  The DHS Director admitted security "failed miserably."  Now it is time for the BPL Director to admit claimed CIPA-compliant Internet filters have failed miserably as well in that they are not being deployed in a CIPA-compliant fashion.  Now is the time for the library to comply with its own written policy or return $2.5M to the federal government.  "It is insulting that the Obama administration would make such a claim...."  It is also insulting that the BPL administration claims the library is CIPA-compliant when it is not. 

Open Letter to BPL Director Seeking Public Informational Interview

Dear Dionne Mack-Harvin,

I respectfully request an informational interview with you to discuss the matter of CIPA-compliant Internet filters.

This matter became known to me when one of the Brooklyn Public Library's patrons approached me directly after BPL staff refused to act satisfactorily.  I have posted that contact on my SafeLibraries blog at "Porn in Brooklyn Public Library; Frustrated Patron Provides Photographic Proof; Library Refuses to Act; Two and a Half Million Dollars in Jeopardy Due to Possible Fraud."

I have confirmed with the federal agency responsible for awarding E-rate grants under the CIPA program that CIPA-compliant filters are not CIPA compliant if they are disabled by the patrons themselves.  It is my understanding that BPL, allowing patrons to disable CIPA filters for themselves in practice, though not in writing, is not in compliance with CIPA.  Since 2003 when CIPA was found constitutional in US v. ALA and BPL claimed compliance with CIPA, BPL has obtained about $2.5M in federal funding by claiming the existence of CIPA-compliant filters when they may not have been in compliance.

These and related issues are the ones I wish to ask you, and I seek your permission to make our discussion public.  I would like to record our conversation and make a transcript, making either or both public.  I also ask for copies of all applications made from 2003 to the present for federal CIPA funding, including the identity of each person who signed the applications.

May I meet with you for discussion given the above information and requests?

Thank you for your consideration.

Dan Kleinman



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