Patriot Act

RFID Passports Coming

Search Engines Web sent in a link to a CNN story about upcoming changes to US passports:

Imagine being overseas and your identity being available for the taking - your nationality, your name, your passport number. Everything. That's the fear of privacy and security specialists now that the State Department plans to issue "e-Passports" to American travelers beginning in late August.

The Department of State has a FAQ page up as well.

Prosecutors Drop Request for CT Library Records

Federal authorities have dropped their demand for library patrons' records after a judge lifted an earlier gag order on the Library Connection of CT. "First the government abandoned the gag order that would have silenced four librarians for the rest of their lives, and now they've abandoned their demand for library records entirely," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU. "While the government's real motives in this case have been questionable from the beginning, their decision to back down is a victory not just for librarians but for all Americans who value their privacy."

An interesting artifact is this National Security Letter from the F.B.I., just revealed today by The Raw Story.

Silence Is Broken in Librarians' Records Case

New York Times article Four Connecticut librarians who had been barred from revealing that they had received a request for patrons' records from the federal government spoke out yesterday, expressing frustration about the sweeping powers given to law enforcement authorities by the USA Patriot Act.

For the local angle on this story, see article and video available from the Hartford (CT)Courant, and more information on Connecticut's Library Connection here.

Appeals Court Paves Way for Gagged Librarians to Speak Publicly for the First Time

The ACLU Says A federal appeals court ruled yesterday on two constitutional challenges filed by the ACLU to the Patriot Act's National Security Letter (NSL) provision, saying in one of the cases that a district court should consider the constitutionality of the provision in light of recent amendments made by Congress.

"Two separate lower courts found the Patriot Act"s National Security Letter provision to be undemocratic and unconstitutional," said Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU attorney who argued the New York case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. "We believe that recent amendments to the law make the provision worse, not better, and we are confident the district court will agree."

National Security Letters issued 9,254 times

Rich writes "Zdnet reports that the FBI's use of a Patriot Act provision that lets it make secret requests for subscriber information from Internet service providers drew scrutiny from U.s. Senators on Tuesday.

"On Friday, the Justice Department reported to Congress that it had made 9.254 such requests pertaining to 3,501 "U.S. persons in 2005. according to a copy of the agency's letter posted on the Federation of American Scientists web site."

"Sen Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who has been one of the most vocal critics of the Patriot Act, said
Tuesday that the number was far, far larger than the number of requests made under Section 215 of the Patriot Act." "I fear the reason might be that in Section 215 they have to go before a judge, and with National Security Letters, they don't, he said."

FBI and Anderson Papers - Deeply Disturbing

kmccook writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

George Washington U. to Receive Jack Anderson's Papers -- but FBI Wants to See Them First.

During his life and career as a muckraking journalist in Washington, Jack Anderson cultivated secret sources throughout the halls of government -- sources who passed on information that allowed Anderson to investigate and write about Watergate, CIA assassination schemes, and countless scandals. His syndicated column, Washington Merry-Go-Round, earned him the enmity of the corrupt and powerful -- so much so that during the Watergate years, associates of Nixon had discussed assassinating the columnist. They never went through with the plot. Anderson died last December at the age of 83.

His archive, some 200 boxes now being held by George Washington University's library, could be a trove of information about state secrets, dirty dealings, political maneuverings, and old-fashioned investigative journalism, open for historians and up-and-coming reporters to see.

But the government wants to see the documents before anyone else.

The FBI's interest in the Anderson archive is "deeply disturbing and deeply in conflict with the academy's interests in freedom of inquiry, research, and scholarship," said Duane E. Webster, the executive director of the Association of Research Libraries.

Jack Siggins, the university librarian, says the FBI's interest in the archive is 'an example of the pressure that libraries are under to change their fundamental philosophy -- which is, to provide the information to the people in order to let the people understand what is going on in their government.'""

Libraries Win Against Secrecy But Don't Comment

Federal prosecutors have given the Library Connection, a cooperative of 26 libraries that share an automated system, permission to identify themselves as the recipients of the secret subpoena, known as a national security letter, which ordered them to turn over patron records and e-mail messages according to today's New York Times article Librarians Win as U.S. Relents on Secrecy Law

But in the article they state that George Christian, the executive director of Library Connection, "has answered 'no comment' when asked about the case by reporters" and he "did not respond to several messages seeking comment last night."

I am outraged that the consortium leader wouldn't immediately champion the victory.

Prosecutors drop appeal in Patriot Act librarian case

The AP Reports: Federal prosecutors said Wednesday they will no longer seek to enforce a gag order on Connecticut librarians who received an FBI demand for records about library patrons under the Patriot Act.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought a lawsuit on behalf of the librarians, said it will identify them once court proceedings are completed in the next few weeks.

U.S. District Judge Janet Hall ruled last year that the gag order should be lifted, because it unfairly prevented the librarians from participating in a debate over how the Patriot Act should be rewritten.

Campaign for Reader Privacy Condemns President Bush

On March 30, the sponsors of the Campaign for Reader Privacy (CRP) -- the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center -- released a statement accusing President Bush of "undermining a new law that expands Congressional oversight of the USA Patriot Act, including the provision that authorizes searches of bookstore and library records."

In a "signing statement" issued on March 9, soon after he approved a bill that reauthorized the expiring sections of the Patriot Act, the President said he reserved the right to ignore provisions of the bill. CRP sponsors condemned the signing statement. More from the American Booksellers Association (Bookweb).

Libraryprivacy.org

Cstout writes: "In my efforts to find instances of direct cooperation between the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Civil Liberties Association (ACLU) I discovered Libraryprivacy.org. A joint project of the California Library Association and the ACLU of Southern California, the website is an excellent resource for libraries nationwide to take action against the USA PATRIOT Act.

"The groups, 'believe that these new powers violate the basic tenets of intellectual freedom, that library users should have the right to read free of surveillance, and that a high wall of privacy should be re-established around an individual's private library records.'

"Included on the site are links to articles about the impact of the PATRIOT Act on library privacy, resolutions against the act and a 'Take Action' section that calls for support of amending the Act to protect library use privacy. This is an excellent resource for us in the librarian profession concerned about the privacy and protection of our patrons.

"No one has ever proven that terrorists used library materials or equipment in support of their activities. What has been proven though, is that the Bush administration has no problem secretly spying on American Citizens. The PATRIOT Act just makes it easier. Let's help the ACLU in their efforts to protect our freedom."

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