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Here's A Short Article from the Missoula Independent on that goofy blog thing that happened a couple weeks back. When Absarokee-based Episcopal priest Jane Ellen Schmoetzer recounted a conversation she had with a small-town librarian on her blog, janellen.blogspot.com, on Jan. 9, she had no idea the post would trigger a long-distance game of "Telephone" that would change the way she approaches her four-year-old blogging habit.
In her post, "Libraries are dangerous places," Schmoetzer recounts a conversation she had that morning with Larrie Hayden, director of Joliet's tiny public library. According to the post (since removed), Larrie told Schmoetzer that she had submitted a book request to a Billings library for copies of The Last Jihad and The Ezekial Option by novelist Joel C. Rosenberg, which she received along with a letter informing her that the order had earned her a spot on a government "watch list," and that she would have to "appear in person in Billings" before she would be able to order any more books.
From Bookselling This Week...
After more than two years in a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on November 22, the FBI announced that it had abandoned a Patriot Act demand for the subscriber records of a small Internet Service Provider. The ACLU welcomed the decision but criticized the FBI for refusing to lift a gag order that prevents the provider from disclosing its identity.
The national security letter provision of the Patriot Act allows the government to demand, without court approval, records of people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. Anyone who receives such a demand is prohibited from disclosing even the mere existence of the request. More information about national security letters is available at ACLU - National Security Letter .
You might think something not happening somewhere isn't news, but you'd be wrong. Princeton University Library officials said this week that they have received no requests for student or faculty library records under the USA PATRIOT Act in the five years since Congress passed the controversial law. But Library policy protects the identity of its patrons by deleting records of loans as soon as those books are returned.
There were also no Sasquatch sightings reported in the library.
The CBC Reports Dozens of Canadian university and college libraries are changing how they arrange for their students and faculty to do online research, in part because of a U.S. law intended to detect possible terrorist activity.
"It's an issue of privacy; [that's] what it comes down to," said Karen Lippold, a librarian at Memorial University in St. John's.
Conceivably, the searches of a student or faculty member doing work on a sensitive issue could be flagged and then stored in the U.S.
Citing changes in the 2001 law made earlier this year, the ACLU has decided to drop its lawsuit related to section 215 of the Patriot Act. This section, the ACLU claims, presents serious constitutional problems in light of its supposed restrictions on free speech. The ACLU will continue to litigate other sections of the Patriot Act.
NPR ran a poignant interview with former US Attorney General John Ashcroft a few days ago. Revelations include his hospital-bed rejection of a White House request to push through NSA's warrantless surveillance program, and reflections on his "biggest failure," regarding the USA PATRIOT Act, to "explain it well to the American people." Although he admits he is "almost as mean as I ever was," he draws several historical parallels to recent security measures and comes across as somewhat less... hysterical... than he did during his tenure in the Bush administration.
Anonymous Patron writes "From U.S. Attorney's Office, New Haven to the Hartford Courant comes a response to "several press reports and editorials" in a
recent media blitz by Connecticut's Library Connection consortium."
Kelly writes "Here, from News Hound , (a site that monitors Fox News..."We watch FOX so you don't have to")...Dick Morris, Fox newsman and former President Clinton advisor/now detractor reports 'Democrats Have To Understand That Snooping Through Library Records Is Popular.'
Anonymous Patron writes "More details surfaced about the Library Connection-ACLU National Security Letter lawsuit in a Hartford Courant article. Library Connection executive director George Christian regrets only that the government abandoned the case. "We didn't get the courts to make a definitive ruling on this..." The consortium director expressed strong support for the confidentiality of library records."
We've covered the idea of inverse surveillance previously. By "watching the watchers," a la George Holliday, it keeps their behavior in check. The ferocity with which some law enforcement personnel -- right up to the top -- have opposed such oversight seems to far outweigh any realistic concerns over security.
Combine these trends and you get last week's story from Philadelphia, where a man was cuffed and jailed allegedly after doing nothing more than taking a picture of another bust with his cell phone.
So what does this have to do with libraries? Well, there's a lot of chatter about how Library 2.0 could take off more if we would just lighten up about that
pesky privacy tenet of our profession. But before we run out and start storing and sharing patron data without proper safeguards and policies, we should be prepared for others abusing the power that this gives them.