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Lynndie England DC lecture canceled after threats

WASHINGTON (AP) - A lecture by the woman who became the public face of the Abu Ghraib scandal was canceled Friday at the Library of Congress after threats caused concerns about staff safety.

Former Army reservist Lynndie England had been scheduled to discuss her biography as part of a veterans forum on Capitol Hill. The book by author Gary S. Winkler is called "Tortured: Lynndie England, Abu Ghraib and the Photographs That Shocked the World."

Members of the Library of Congress Professional Association, the employee group holding the talk, received an e-mail from president Angela Kinney saying the event was canceled due to staff safety concerns. A spokeswoman for the library said Kinney would not comment further.

The group had received "numerous expressions of protest" about the lecture from its members, the e-mail said.

David Moore, a Vietnam War veteran and German acquisitions specialist at the library who organized the event, said he had received several e-mails threatening violence and that he shared them with police and the library's inspector general.

He said he was disappointed by the cancellation but supports the decision because of safety concerns. "We can't have an event here that's going to develop into a brawl like a town hall meeting," he said.

He added, "Free speech in America is pretty well dead."

He blamed an essay decrying the event on the Small Wars Journal blog for stirring up much of the opposition. The site focuses on war politics and strategy.

"It's a disgrace that the dishonorable profit and that we use government property and resources to glorify the gutless. If you attend the lecture on Friday, don't save me a seat," reads the posting by Morris Davis, another Library of Congress employee.

Davis, who retired from the Air Force after serving as chief prosecutor for military trials at Guantanamo Bay, resigned from his Army legal post in protest because he believed waterboarding was torture.

Davis said he was grateful the event was canceled and had heard from many library employees who disagreed with inviting England to speak. Those who disagreed planned to skip the event in protest, but no one advocated violence, he said.

"I believe a person who has paid her debt to society has the right to move on with her life, and that applies to Ms. England," Davis said in an e-mail Friday. "I hope she finds a job and can support her child. But to be invited to speak at the library that belongs to the Congress of the United States is an honor, and I just don't believe in honoring the dishonorable."

Davis said he was put off by England because he said she portrays herself as a victim, while other soldiers who lost arms and legs at war don't get book deals and don't complain.

The posting had 19 comments by Friday afternoon, including several criticizing England.

Other efforts to promote the book had been disrupted, Winkler said in an e-mail, though he didn't elaborate. He defended the biography as balanced, saying it includes voices besides England's to tell the full story of the events and people involved at Abu Ghraib.

Moore said he won't plan future lectures because of the England problems and that he's canceling three already scheduled, including events featuring a woman who wrote about sexual harassment in the military and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq. As a counterpoint to England's talk, Moore had also planned a later event with the prosecutor who handled England's case and who has a book due out next year.

"I'm just fed up," he said.

He has organized the library group's veterans forums for eight years, and he said the talks generally draw 40 to 80 people and some have been carried on C-SPAN.

England, now 26, has said she hopes the book will improve her image and help people understand what she says was a limited role in what happened at the Iraqi prison in 2004. She is now raising a young son near her family in West Virginia. A spokeswoman said England may comment on the cancellation later Friday.

She is currently appealing her convictions for conspiracy, mistreating detainees and committing an indecent act after serving half of a three-year sentence. England was one of 11 soldiers found guilty of wrongdoing at Abu Ghraib.