From the same source that originally reported the story comes news that the story about a visit from federal agents following an interlibrary loan request for Mao's Little Red Book is a hoax. The student now admits making up the story:
Federal agents' visit was a hoax: 12/ 24/ 2005
Student admits he lied about Mao book
By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer
NEW BEDFORD -- The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.
The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.
Had the student stuck to his original story, it might never have been proved false.
But on Thursday, when the student told his tale in the office of UMass Dartmouth professor Dr. Robert Pontbriand to Dr. Williams, Dr. Pontbriand, university spokesman John Hoey and The Standard-Times, the student added new details.
The agents had returned, the student said, just last night. The two agents, the student, his parents and the student's uncle all signed confidentiality agreements, he claimed, to put an end to the matter.
But when Dr. Williams went to the student's home yesterday and relayed that part of the story to his parents, it was the first time they had heard it. The story began to unravel, and the student, faced with the truth, broke down and cried.
It was a dramatic turnaround from the day before.
For more than an hour on Thursday, he spoke of two visits from Homeland Security over his inter-library loan request for the 1965, Peking Press version of "Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung," which is the book's official title.
His basic tale remained the same: The book was on a government watch list, and his loan request had triggered a visit from an agent who was seeking to "tame" reading of particular books. He said he saw a long list of such books.
In the days after its initial reporting on Dec. 17 in The Standard-Times, the story had become an international phenomenon on the Internet. Media outlets from around the world were requesting interviews with the students, and a number of reporters had been asking UMass Dartmouth students and professors for information....
I reported on the original story (The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Borrow the wrong book and get it personally delivered by the feds) as did hundreds of other blogs, assuming it to be true. Well, it simply was not which shows the risk of believing what you read about on a blog, or in the conventional media (since the story originated with the South Coast Times of Massachusetts).
I tend to agree with most of what Bruce Schneier observes on this latest turn of events:
"I don't know what the moral is, here. 1) He's an idiot. 2) Don't believe everything you read. 3) We live in such an invasive political climate that such stories are easily believable. 4) He's definitely an idiot."
I won't tell which parts I agree with most ...