Friday, December 23, 2005

Little Red Update

Several sources have directed my attention to the fact that ALA's web site now has a brief article on the "Little Red Book" controversy. The main highlight of the ALA piece is the following:

Williams told American Libraries, “The student told me that the book was on a watch list, and that the books on this list had changing status. Mao was on the list at the time, hence the visit, which was also related to his time abroad.”

It seems that every time something is published about this story, the details change. Now it's a rotating watch list of books. So Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung was on the alleged watch list in October, but not now? That's very convenient. How would the student know the workings of such a list, assuming it existed? Did the DHS or FBI or whoever-they-were agents lay out the details for him during his alleged interrogation?

The ALA article also mentions that the student "requested the book by phone from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst". This raises another question: why didn't the student simply order Quotations via UMass-Dartmouth's ILL service, as the first report of this story indicated? The student could also have used the Virtual Catalogs feature to order Quotations from another Massachusetts library. So why would he try to file an ILL request with UMass-Amherst, whose service appears to be limited to Amherst students, faculty, and staff only? If he simply called Amherst's library to ask about the availability of their copy of the book, would they not have advised him to order the item through his own institution or the Virtual Catalogs? Finally, the claim that the alleged request with Amherst was filed by phone would also make the existence of a record trail less likely, and thus harder to conclusively disprove the story.

Today's other bit of information comes courtesy of Wizbang. This item from the Boston Herald features a comment from the FBI:

Complicating matters has been the student, who so far has refused to talk. Boston FBI spokeswoman Gail A. Marcinkiewicz said she has been unable to find evidence that FBI agents visited the student.

“We don’t have interest in what people read,” she added.

The more this story has been investigated, the more it falls apart.


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