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Washington-area librarians protested the subpoena in front of Kramerbooks & afterwords

Starr subpoena of Lewinsky's book purchases raises outcry, questions

From CNN Correspondent Carl Rochelle

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Reaction to Ken Starr's subpoenas for a list of books Monica Lewinsky purchased from two Washington book stores has ranged from outrage to a puzzlement: "Can they do that?" everyone seems to be asking.

And now, there's a legal reaction: DC's Kramerbooks & afterwords, along with the national chain Barnes and Noble, has filed motions to halt what some see as justifiable requests.

"We're not talking about idle government curiosity here," says Richard Willard, a former assistant attorney general. "We're talking about a criminal investigation where there are serious charges that have been made of obstruction of justice and tampering with witnesses and people."

"No information about any customer has been turned over to any government agency or office including Mr. Starr's."
-- William Kramer, Kramerbooks

First reports, including the name of at least one book that Lewinsky had purchased, made it appear that one of the stores had given up without a fight -- something both vendors strongly denied.

"No information about any customer has been turned over to any government agency or office including Mr. Starr's. I repeat, we have not turned over any information," says William Kramer of Kramerbooks.

Sources familiar with the Starr investigation say they already knew what Lewinsky was reading from the search she permitted of her apartment. The real goal, CNN is told, is corroboration of alleged gifts, and purchase dates.

CNN/Time AllPolitics:
More on Starr's investigation

Still, Starr's action triggered concern about personal privacy rights and that has galvanized booksellers nationwide. "The constitutional harm here is the chilling effect on all of us -- all readers in terms of what we're free to read," says Ann Kappler, attorney for American Booksellers Association. "Why should we go into a bookstore and read books, get a list of books, if we think it's going to be free to the government to look into."

The government can justify subpoenaes of records of almost any purchases -- from CDs to recipes, claiming it as part of an investigation. So if you really don't want big brother to know what you're buying, pay cash.


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