Information Update - Fall 2007

Updates on the Patriot Act

Four librarians on the executive board of the Library Connection, a nonprofit consortium of one academic and twenty-six public libraries in Connecticut, were finally allowed in June 2006 to come forward regarding the National Security Letter from the FBI which demanded computer records from one of the member libraries. This was nearly one year after a gag order prevented the four from revealing that they were the "John Doe" of their lawsuit, Doe v. Gonzales, that they filed through the ACLU objecting to the request for records and challenging the constitutionality of the gag order.

The FBI had issued the National Security Letter in an effort to track down the identity of the sender of a threatening terrorist e-mail from a computer in one of the member libraries of the Library Connection. The FBI dropped the case after the threat was found to be not credible. ("John Does Allowed to Speak, Receive Belated Downs Award", Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, 55:5, (Sept. 2006): 223).

The American Library Association continues to contend that the Department of Justice "fails to comprehend the role of libraries and the importance of privacy in the United States." (ALA. FBI Director's Comments to Senate Reveal Continued Hostility Toward Libraries, Privacy. 21 Dec. 2006. ;).

The reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2006 stated that the FBI cannot issue National Security Letters to libraries that function in a traditional role, e.g., lending books, providing digital access to books and periodicals, and providing basic access to the Internet. However, if a library acts as an"electronic communication service provider" it may be subject to an NSL. (Norman Oder,"ALA Criticizes DoJ's Privacy Stance," Library Journal, 132:2, (Feb. 1, 2007): 16-17)

Earlier this year it was also revealed that poorly trained FBI agents have under-reported the number of times the FBI has issued National Security Letters to obtain financial and telecommunications records in their antiterrorism investigations. Also neglected were proper justification for NSL use and failure to put into place adequate record-keeping procedures to ensure the protection of civil liberties. This was all announced in a DOJ Office of the Inspector General audit released in March 2007. ALA's President Leslie Burger stated that these "findings confirm many of ALA's most repeatedly stated concerns about the lack of oversight into the FBI's surveillance activities, resulting in repeated intrusions into the lives of innocent American citizens." (ALA. Statement from ALA President Leslie Burger on Justice Dept. Investigation into FBI, NSLs. 8 March 2007. ; "Audit: FBI Misused USA Patriot Act," American Libraries, 38:4, (April 2007): 20-1.)
Kevin Norris
Pride, Passion, Promise: Experience Our Jesuit Tradition