Patriot Act has placed librarians in tough position

Jim Heckel, director of the Great Falls Public Library, Says Libraries have become the symbolic canaries in the mine shaft since the passage of the overly zealous USA Patriot Act, enacted shortly after 9/11 and contentiously renewed early this year.
What does terrorism have to do with your local public library? That is, as they say, an interesting question.

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sensible?

Sensible as this may sound on the surface, Section 215 actually has caused a firestorm of protest, especially from librarians, because the order circumvents one of the foundations of constitutional law and, in fact, historical precedent dating back to the Magna Carta of 1215: that search and seizure attempts must be supported by critical judicial review: In other words, supported by a legally authorized subpoena.

Sensible as that may sound on the surface a public library is not a personal residence. It is a public institution funded by public tax dollars. The bar is and should be considered lower than someone's home.

Re:sensible?

Why is that? Shouldn't the Government always show just cause in obtaining information about individual citizens? The potential for abuse is simply too great.

I'm not sure where you get your theory that governmental records of individuals have fewer protections. Would you be willing to elaborate? I don't remember seeing anything in the Constitution that gives the Government greater lee-way.

Re:sensible?

I don't remember seeing in the Constitution anywhere where it doesn't.

Re:sensible?

Only powers expressly granted by the Constitution can be exercised. All others reside in the States and in the People. If the Constitution doesn't grant that power to the Government (Federal), then it doesn't exist.

Re:sensible?

I don't consider it a 'power', like I said, its a public institution, funded by tax dollars. If people are going to keep making extreme arguments about privacy then I'm just going to start making the argument that library use is public record just like almost every other gov't record.

Re:sensible?

I'm not sure how compelling one governmental agency to turn over records, without a warrant, to another, is not a power.

We're not talking about privacy, per se, at the moment. We are talking about the Government having the power (because that is what it is) to obtain information about individuals without showing just cause. Like it or not, Greg, The Founders enshrined protections against unreasonable searches and seizures on the premise that such power is too easily abused. The Constitution requires a warrant for searches and seizures. Why do you think that is? And do you think it's really a good idea to lower that particular bar? If you're going to do that, don't you think a Constitutional Amendment would be the way to go instead of simply handing greater power to the Feds? Once it has been established that there is a lower threshold for Constitutional protection, it becomes a precedent, and can be used to justify expanded powers. Take a look, for example, at the expanded use of the RICO statutes if you think I'm just making stuff up.

Historically, and until recently, the police have needed a court order to access information from other Governmental agencies (despite your claims that the bar already is lower). Why do you feel the bar should be lower? Since we all have to deal with the Government in one fashion or another, your standard completely does an end run around Constitutional protections that the architects of that document considered important enough to include in the first 10 amendments.

Re:sensible?

I've stated my reasoning very clearly Robert, its a public building, a public service, funded by public dollars. By definition everything about it should be public. That it isn't is a common sense measure because of the nature of the service, yes, in a community you should be able to check out materials of a personal nature and have it be private. But to attach any greater value other than that, some concept of *absolute* privacy is absurd. It is not a private home, not a private business, the redcoats are not coming.

Re:sensible?

You keep talking about privacy, and now absolute privacy. Who are you discussing that with? Not me, I never used that phrase.

And you haven't come anywhere near answering the question: you've talked around it. What is the reasoning behind the belief that simply because something is tax funded, that is has a lower bar for obtaining information on the part of various law enforcement agencies? Simply because I use a public facility, does not mean that I have given up my constitutional rights to be protected from warrantless searches.

And your second sentence contradicts your first. If everything about a library is public, why shouldn't my circulation records be open to perusal by all members of the public? After all they pay taxes. And following your same logic, all medical records at the VA should be open to public examination since those hospitals are funded by taxpayer dollars.

I'm not talking about an *absolute* privacy. In fact, most people aren't. I'm only saying that the Constitutional forms should be followed, and that the police should be required to obtain a search warrant. Why shouldn't they show just cause? How do you know, in a library setting, that a police officer is coming in to find out where his or her battered spouse now lives? Checks on governmental power and authority are there for a reason. Why dilute them?

The founders were no longer worried about the Redcoats when they drafted the Constitution. Independence had been already won. They were worried about the power that officials would have and the ability to abuse that power. That is what requiring a search warrant is about. And it is still a legitimate concern. Think about how many times our various levels of government have spied on citizens in the last 50 years alone simply for exercising Constitutional Rights.

Re:sensible?

You keep talking about privacy, and now absolute privacy. Who are you discussing that with? Not me, I never used that phrase.
Good for you. I did use it.

And you haven't come anywhere near answering the question: you've talked around it. What is the reasoning behind the belief that simply because something is tax funded, that is has a lower bar for obtaining information on the part of various law enforcement agencies? Simply because I use a public facility, does not mean that I have given up my constitutional rights to be protected from warrantless searches.
Well, actually yes you did. Once you left your property you gave up that right. All any police officer needs is probable cause to stop and search you.

And your second sentence contradicts your first.
And then the third sentence explains my reason's why.

I'm not talking about an *absolute* privacy. In fact, most people aren't. I'm only saying that the Constitutional forms should be followed, and that the police should be required to obtain a search warrant. Why shouldn't they show just cause? How do you know, in a library setting, that a police officer is coming in to find out where his or her battered spouse now lives? Checks on governmental power and authority are there for a reason. Why dilute them?
So nice to know you speak for 'most people'. I speak for myself and I say that a publicly funded institution that people use on a voluntary basis should not be held to the same level of protection as a person's private home or business. As for your battered spouse example, you might wonder why a police officer would need a library for that kind of information, or better yet why a librarian is supposed to be considered more trustworthy than a police officer. Abuse is not limited to professions with badges.

The founders were no longer worried about the Redcoats when they drafted the Constitution. Independence had been already won. They were worried about the power that officials would have and the ability to abuse that power. That is what requiring a search warrant is about. And it is still a legitimate concern. Think about how many times our various levels of government have spied on citizens in the last 50 years alone simply for exercising Constitutional Rights.
The Founders drafted the Constition based on prior experience which consisted of an overbearing gov't abusing power to search a person's private property not whether someone was using a public library computer to communicate with terrorist cells.

Re:sensible?

"All any police officer needs is probable cause to stop and search you."

From what I've read, that is untrue. In order to search your person, they have to arrest you first.

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