Get LISNews via email! Enter Your Email Address:
Warning: the following is only loosely related to libraries. It is pertinent to those who work in an academic setting and who think about the political culture of that setting. This kind of thing will go into my blog when I get one.
I have to admit I haven't been all that well-informed about the Patriot Act. Since I haven't been working as a librarian for the last 3+ years, I haven't paid as much attention to issues that might bear upon libraries as perhaps I ought to have. The Patriot Act is one of those issues I sort of glossed over.
You should know that I am one of those "be skeptical of government" conservatives, the kind who have some definite libertarian leanings, which means that by default I am inclined to dislike things like the Patriot Act. After all, I think that subversives like Gary Kunsman and Joel Miller have a real point when they claim that the state exceeds its authority and impairs liberty in the "war on drugs". Doubtless I make some fellow conservatives angry when I say that marijuana should be legalized (n.b.: my pot-smoking days are well behind me). I favor the availabilty of strong encryption to normal U.S. citizens (what was the previous administration's ban on cryptography all about, anyway?). So up till now I've I've been grumbling about the state further eroding liberties when the Patriot Act is mentioned.
This evening I finally read the anathematized Section 215 of the Patriot Act to see for myself how bad it is. I confess I'm rather disappointed. Section 215 replaces 3 sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 with two new sections. As far as I can make out, this is what it says:
As I read this, it looks to me as if requests under Section 215 must be made by very high-ranking FBI officials (i.e. high-profile, highly-scrutinized, publicly accountable people). The request must be made to a very narrowly defined set of high-ranking judges. The Justice Department must give an accounting of its requests to intelligence and judiciary committees (on both of which sit *gasp* Democrats) of the House and Senate. What's more, Section 224 seems to say that Section 215 (as a non-excluded section of Title II of the act) sunsets on December 31, 2005.
Somebody help me here. Did I misunderstand what I read? Did I read the wrong section? Did not the FBI have power before to subpoena library records? What's all this about accountability to Congress? Please note that these questions aren't merely rhetorical. I'm not trying to set up a straw man. I'm not saying I like this section. However, I feel like I had a right to expect something much more nefarious than this based on the build-up from the civil liberties & library communities. I feel cheated. Surely I'm missing something.
I always have comments enabled in my journal. Somebody enlighten me, please. I want to dislike this act.
Here are some comments I have recently posted on other blogs, just to
give you an idea of my views on a few topics. I'm not posting these
because they are the last words on their subjects, but because I think
they are reasonably well-argued and come from a more or less
conservative point of view.
Now you can see just how wise or retrograde I am (depending on your point of view). You can also set me straight through the comments feature.
Blake Carver has
commented on the difficulty of hearing the voice of the intelligent
right over all the other noise online. I want to post links to a few
blogs I think worth reading.
These blogs don't express only views I agree with (that
would happen only in my blog, if I had one, and then only about half
the time), but I find that they don't rely on emotionalism or
rhetorical bluster. In my view they present consistent,
There are quite a few others (and I didn't even get theological, either). I could go on, but it's late.
By way of a BTW, I don't listen to talk radio (though I suspect I'd like Hugh Hewitt's show), I don't prefer Fox news over CNN or MSNBC (the only real broadcast news for my money is the Newshour with Jim Lehrer), and I may never read a book by Ann Coulter. I don't like cant or rhetorical fluff when there's no substance to back it up (unless it's very, very funny).