From the May 2003 Idaho Observer:
Nation's librarians refuse to comply with invasive USA Patriot Act provisions
PHILADELPHIA -- In its campaign to actualize its quest for total information awareness, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice, under the auspices of the controversial USA Patriot Act, have been attempting to use the nation's libraries as an intelligence gathering resource.
The American Library Association (ALA) has refused to cooperate. On January 9, 2003, it adopted a resolution (see below) to resist providing the feds with records that invade readers' right to borrow whatever reading materials they want without being subjected to police state scrutiny.
Rather than making check out records available to federal investigators, librarians across the country have opted to shred them.
Though the ALA has come under fire from conservative groups due to its position on juvenile access to adult literature through the Internet, the association's stand in defiance of the post-9-11 police state shows it is not part of some liberal plot to debauch the youth of America. While post offices, colleges, high schools and hospitals have largely cooperated with federal demands for private information, the ALA refuses to compromise its mission to facilitate the free flow of information.
On a personal note, I have been using libraries to conduct research since I was very young. Not once in hundreds of encounters in libraries all over the country have librarians with whom I have had contact been anything less than kind, helpful and patient.
As of this writing, nearly every statewide library association has adopted the ALA resolution upon convening and putting it to a vote.
On April 8, The Idaho Library Association resolved to protect the privacy of its patrons by adopting the national resolution and one of its own.
RESOLUTION ON THE USA PATRIOT ACT AND RELATED MEASURES THAT INFRINGE ON THE RIGHTS OF LIBRARY USERS
WHEREAS, the American Library Association affirms the responsibility of the leaders of the United States to protect and preserve the freedoms that are the foundation of our democracy; and
WHEREAS, libraries are a critical force for promoting the free flow and unimpeded distribution of knowledge and information for individuals, institutions, and communities; and
WHEREAS, the American Library Association holds that suppression of ideas undermines a democratic society; and
WHEREAS, privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association; and, in a library, the subject of users' interests should not be examined or scrutinized by others; and
WHEREAS, certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the revised Attorney General Guidelines to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other related measures expand the authority of the federal government to investigate citizens and non-citizens, to engage in surveillance, and to threaten civil rights and liberties guaranteed under the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights; and
WHEREAS, the USA PATRIOT Act and other recently enacted laws, regulations, and guidelines increase the likelihood that the activities of library users, including their use of computers to browse the Web or access e-mail, may be under government surveillance without their knowledge or consent; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association encourages all librarians, library administrators, library governing bodies, and library advocates to educate their users, staff, and communities about the process for compliance with the USA PATRIOT Act and other related measures and about the dangers to individual privacy and the confidentiality of library records resulting from those measures; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association urges librarians everywhere to defend and support user privacy and free and open access to knowledge and information; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association will work with other organizations, as appropriate, to protect the rights of inquiry and free expression; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association will take actions as appropriate to obtain and publicize information about the surveillance of libraries and library users by law enforcement agencies and to assess the impact on library users and their communities; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association urges all libraries to adopt and implement patron privacy and record retention policies that affirm that "the collection of personally identifiable information should only be a matter of routine or policy when necessary for the fulfillment of the mission of the library" (ALA Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights); and, be it further
RESOLVED, that the American Library Association considers that sections of the USA PATRIOT ACT are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users and urges the United States Congress to:
1) provide active oversight of the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act and other related measures, and the revised Attorney General Guidelines to the Federal Bureau of Investigation;
2) hold hearings to determine the extent of the surveillance on library users and their communities; and
3) amend or change the sections of these laws and the guidelines that threaten or abridge the rights of inquiry and free expression; and, be it further
RESOLVED, that this resolution be forwarded to the President of the United States, to the Attorney General of the United States, to Members of both Houses of Congress, to the library community, and to others as appropriate.
Adopted by the Council of the American Library Association
January 29, 2003
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