A couple of years ago, the owner of Denver’s Tattered Cover bookstore said “No”. The recipients of this refusal were the North Metro Drug Task Force, who had ever-so-nicely asked if they might see the records related to a book purchase a suspected methamphetamine producer had ordered from the bookstore. Seems they had found two books on the fine art of meth-making in the suspect’s home, and an empty mailing envelope from the Tattered Cover in the trash. They were able to make their case without the Tattered Cover’s cooperation, and the baddie is now doing time
But for refusing to hand over the records, the Tattered Cover has spent two years in court. As their lawyer says:
The Tattered Cover believes that all information about customer purchases is private…. The bookstore is not in the business of determining what is helpful to law enforcement and what is not.”
Right on! Remember, two years ago, the War on Drugs was what the War on Terrorism is today–drug dealers were the scum of the earth, and only a real sicko would actually care about their rights. But the Tattered Cover made a stand on principal, and their stand was ultimately sanctioned by the Colorado Supreme Court. Hopefully this ruling will stand as a precedent when some other brave soul stands up to the USA PATRIOT Act’s nefarious bookstore and library records provisions.
Oh, the name of the book that the suspect bought from the Tattered Cover? Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters. The Tattered Cover and their lawyers knew that the information the police were after wouldn’t do them any good. But, as the lawyer said, they couldn’t tell the police that. “Because it’s private.”