I thought I saw Lee Strickland out of the corner of my eye last week, a couple of times at the American Library Association conference in D.C. last week.
I know he was there, smiling, saying “I told you so,” when Foreign Intelligence Court Judge Royce Lamberth blasted the administration’s use of warrantless wiretaps. Lee was the only library school professor I know who had been a long time Senior Intelligence Officer for the CIA.
I called him years ago to ask about national security letters (NSLs), and he told me that if a library came to him with one, he’d likely recommend the library challenge it. So he would have been proud to hear Peter Chase and Barbara Bailey speak at the ALA conference June 24th, as they described their journey to do just that. They were served an NSL by the FBI, and told that they couldn’t tell anyone besides their lawyer about it. Not their colleagues, their staffs, not their families. They were not willing to turn over records without a court order, and they weren’t willing to stay gagged for eternity about their experience, particularly since Patriot Act Reauthorization hearings were happening, and people were saying that the FBI did not ask for library records.
Lee taught librarians about the inner workings of intelligence orders, and hopefully his teachings and writings helped the librarians and their lawyers in this ultimately successful quest.
I learned a lot from Lee, and he graciously (thankfully!) took on the lion’s share of the work in an article I coauthored with him and Tomas Lipinski, Patriot in the Library: Management Approaches When Demands for Information are Received from Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies, 30 J. of College and Univ. Law 2004 42pp. Karen, his wife, did much of the extensive research.
Lee wrote many many other articles on intelligence information, all a great contribution to the library community. I’m sad as can be that his voice is gone, especially now when we need his inside experience and generous spirit more than ever.
I have had the pleasure over the past week to meet Karen (by email) and it’s an honor to correspond with her.
Let me offer this small tribute to a great man, who had an unusual combination of CIA experience, love of libraries, love of freedom and civil liberties, and a dedication to teach us all about all arenas.
To Lee, thank you.
p.s. I happened to visit the U.S. Copyright Office while I was in D.C., and my eyes fell on the catalog drawers holding copyright registrations from the years 1971 to 1977. Oddly, the alphabet broke right between K. Strickland and L. Strickland. I took a photo of a card inside that had Lee’s name, but now I can’t make out the title of the registration. Can any of you readers make it out? Or if someone works at the Library of Congress or Copyright Office, maybe you could take a look and leave a comment here.