First Amendment issues are near and dear to librarians--scratch a librarian and you'll invariably find some solid opinions on the Patriot Act. And you'll probably find someone fairly willing to share those opinions with anyone who'll listen. Oh yes.
The New York Times reports on an American Library Association survey of libraries which says that since October of 2001, at least 200 documented requests have been made by law enforcement to libraries nationwide, seeking information on reading materials and other internal matters.
Some requests were made with subpoenas and other types of official demands; others were informal requests. President Bush claims that powers of the Patriot Act have never yet been exercised in attempts to obtain information from libraries and bookstores. And this survey does not purport to answer Patriot Act questions.
Were the Patriot Act to be invoked at the library, we would be under a gag order to tell no one--not other library staff, nor any person who might be the target of investigation.
"What this says to us," said Emily Sheketoff, the executive director of the library association's Washington office, "is that agents are coming to libraries and they are asking for information at a level that is significant, and the findings are completely contrary to what the Justice Department has been trying to convince the public."
Kevin Madden, a Justice Department spokesman, said that the department had not yet seen the findings and that he could not comment specifically on them. But Mr. Madden questioned the relevance of the data to the debate over the Patriot Act, noting that the types of inquiries found in the survey could relate to a wide range of law enforcement investigations unconnected to terrorism or intelligence.
"Any conclusion that federal law enforcement has an extraordinary interest in libraries is wholly manufactured as a result of misinformation," Mr. Madden said.
The two sides are lined up pretty clearly on this one. Read more...
(The New York Times may require you to register to access this article. Registration is free and well worth it, IMHO. Also, this article will be available for only a limited time.)