A Friday lecture at the Library of Congress by Lynndie England, one of the most recognizable figures of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, was scratched over safety concerns after opposition from library employees produced violent threats, the organizer said.
In addition, organizer David Moore said he canceled the entire series of lectures on veterans’ issues, saying free speech “is pretty well dead” because of the ability of a vocal few to make a public fuss.
Ms. England, a 26-year-old former Army Reservist, had been scheduled to discuss her authorized biography as part of the ongoing lecture series sponsored by the Library of Congress Professional Association, an employee group.
The book, titled “Tortured: Lynndie England, Abu Ghraib and the Photographs That Shocked the World,” was written by Gary S. Winkler, who was not invited to the event, said a spokeswoman for Ms. England.
Mr. Moore, a German acquisitions specialist at the library, said he received several “vicious” e-mails and telephone calls threatening violence.
After informing police and the library’s inspector general of the threats, library President Angela Kinney called him Thursday evening to say the event would be canceled.
Mr. Moore, who has worked at the library for 20 years, said Friday he was disappointed with the cancellation but agreed that it would be unwise to go ahead with the lecture.
“It’s really uncalled for,” he said of the threats. “I began to take it serious because of the nuts from outside.”
Mr. Moore said some of the threats grew out of opposition to the lecture by a “ringleader and four other employees” who posted their displeasure on outside blogs.
Mr. Moore declined to name the protesters, but a posting on the Small Wars Journal blog by a “Morris Davis,” who says he is a Library of Congress employee, was particularly critical of Ms. England’s scheduled appearance.
“Thousands and thousands of honorable men and women have and are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. They don’t get book deals and invited to lecture at the Library of Congress,” the posting states. “It’s a disgrace that the dishonorable profit and that we use government property and resources to glorify the gutless.”
The posting had 25 comments by Friday evening. While none of the comments contained violent threats, several were critical of Ms. England.
Mr. Moore, a Vietnam War veteran, said he doesn’t agree with or condone the actions of all of the series’ speakers but that it’s important to “hear all sides.”
“I try to be apolitical and have left- and right-[leaning speakers], and that’s why it was very popular,” he said.
As a counterpoint to Ms. England’s talk, Mr. Moore had planned a later event with the prosecutor who handled the former soldier’s case.
Ms. England was a private in the Army Reserve when she was shown in lurid photos holding a naked prisoner on a leash and posing with a pyramid of naked detainees.
One of 11 soldiers convicted of singled out for wrongdoing at the Iraqi prison, she was convicted in 2005 of six of seven counts involving prisoner mistreatment, and acquitted on a second conspiracy count. She was sentenced to three years in prison, of which she served about 17 months.
Mr. Moore, who has had booked about 50 speakers for the veterans forum during the past eight years, said he has decided to discontinue the series effective immediately because he fears that future guests may bring additional threats.
“I can’t operate in an environment like that,” he said. “I think enough if enough. I can’t do something that might embarrass the library.”
Mr. Moore said he is frustrated that a small group of protesters can stifle free speech for others, comparing the situation to disruptions caused by protesters at recent congressional town hall meetings.
“I guess that’s just the environment right now,” he said, adding that free speech in “is pretty well dead” in the U.S.
A request to interview Ms. England through a publicist Friday was unsuccessful.