Patriot Act

Patriot Act

How a Librarian Made Me a Surveillance Skeptic

From Marketplace.org: I was at a dinner table about a year ago, right after the first Edward Snowden leaks, when I heard for the first time an argument I've heard many times since.

"Why should I care? I'm not doing anything wrong." This appears to be the opinion of the majority when it comes to the idea of the government using surveillance to fight terrorism. By Pew Research's estimates, 56 percent of Americans support the government listening in while it fights the "bad guys." And it has been this way for something like 12 years -- right after the September 11th attacks and the beginning of the war on terror.

All of this thinking about surveillance, government, and legislation has also reminded me of a chapter in my own history that I haven't thought of in a while. During my junior year of college in 2003, I worked in the D.C. office of a moderate Republican Congressman. My main job was to answer constituent correspondence with letters that represented the Congressman's policy positions, which he would then sign. One day near the end of my spring semester, I had an assignment I couldn't complete: I was supposed to answer a constituent letter about a proposed expansion of the Patriot Act. The letter had been sent, and signed, by librarians throughout the Congressman's home state who were opposed to the Patriot Act's allowance of officials to access library records. They were asking the Congressman to oppose any extension or expansion of the legislation, and really to roll it back entirely. As I was preparing to tell the librarians that the congressman fully supported the legislation, I made a discovery. One of the librarian signatures on the constituent letter was familiar to me. It belonged to my mother.

Calling It 'Metadata' Doesn't Make Surveillance Less Intrusive

Whether it's logs of phone calls or GPS data, commentator Geoff Nunberg says it still says a lot about who you are: "Tell me where you've been and who you've been talking to, and I'll tell you about your politics, your health, your sexual orientation, your finances," he says.

Full piece

LISTen: An LISNews.org Program -- Episode #246

This week's episode brings a brief essay, retransmission of an excerpt of a program from US government external broadcaster Voice of America concerning the cyber-snooping situation, and a news miscellany.

Related links:

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Notre Dame librarian tries to bring halt to snooping

Doug Archer thinks twice before he Googles.

Archer, a reference and peace studies librarian at the University of Notre Dame, is careful not to type potentially inflammatory words, such as "bomb."

Why? Because he knows the government might be watching.

The Patriot Act, which was passed in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, authorizes the government to monitor which library books people check out and what they search for on the Internet.

Ten years later, Archer and a group of librarians continue to fight for changes to that controversial law, which they say is unconstitutional.

Full article

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USA PATRIOT Act Renewal Attempt Fails

Andrew Stiles, writing at National Review Online's The Corner, notes the US House of Representatives failed to pass an extension of various USA PATRIOT Act provisions. The Washington Post's Paul Kane and Felicia Sonmez report that library-related provisions were included in the bill that failed.

LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast -- Episode #132

A key line this week:

"Content remains content regardless of the form it is fixed in."

You'll hear more in this week's episode.

Since PNLA-L has all these updates on TSA...

As I've seen quite a bit of chatter on library-related e-mail reflectors, it is perhaps best to mirror the new signage the TSA just put out for holiday travel. I'm attaching the PDF here so it will distribute outward as a booklet as far as iTunes is concerned in the podcast feed. Podcast feeds can handle more than just audio and video files...

You can find more signage and the government PSA we'll likely be airing here: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/holiday_travel.shtm

The Desk Setup: A Look At Librarian Computers

The Desk Setup

Like many technologists, I may have had some vague notion that librarians had something to contribute to discussions about information and metadata and standards and access, but my concept of what librarians did and what they knew probably had more to do with stereotypes and anecdote than on an understanding of reality. Which is a shame. Although in the last few years I think we’ve done a really good job of making clearer connections between libraries and technology, I don’t think anyone is surprised when librarians are omitted from discussions about and between prominent technologists, such as the one facilitated by the Setup. (Note: by “librarians” I mean anyone who works in, with, or for libraries. Hat tip to Eli Neiburger for saying what I’d been thinking, only less clearly, for some time before he said those words out loud.)

Re-upping the Patriot Act...On the Media

President Obama recently signed into law the re-authorization of three contentious provisions of the Patriot Act. Shane Harris, author of The Watchers, returns this week to discuss the implications for the future of American surveillance. Transcript here.
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Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions

The Obama administration has told Congress it supports renewing three provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at year’s end, measures making it easier for the government to spy within the United States.

In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said the administration might consider “modifications” to the act in order to protect civil liberties.

“The administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities,” Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general, wrote to Leahy, (.pdf) whose committee is expected to consider renewing the three expiring Patriot Act provisions next week. The government disclosed the letter Tuesday.

It should come as no surprise that President Barack Obama supports renewing the provisions, which were part of the Patriot Act approved six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Full article at Wired.com

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When the law is not the law

Libraries are involved with patron's personal information, we all know that. We know who has what book checked out, and in many system there is a record of who has read what, used which computer, etc. Even when there are no physical records, this information can still exist in the form of logs, computer related information that is carried over for a period of time (cookies, etc.), and when books are checked out of a State libraries the records may exist outside the library where the materials were accessed even if that library does not keep records itself once the materials have been returned. It's just a fact of life.

There are laws in place to protect us, the public, from abuse of those in power when it comes to these records. And, while they are certainly not perfect, from from so since 2001, they are still the law, and this is a land of law and order based on those laws - or so we are told. In certain circumstances, people in positions of authority know that if they use their influence to coerce members of the public to abandon their rights, they will often get compliance despite their request being illegal. It happens all the time.

Obama and Libraries

It may be too soon to know how high libraries will fare on President-elect Barack Obama’s agenda, but it’s safe to say that the profession has a special place in the heart of the next president of the United States.

Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Washington office, says she’s confident that Obama will recognize the “importance of what we do” because he has a track record of supporting libraries in the past. Take, for instance, his address to ALA in June 2005.

“The library has always been a window to a larger world—a place where we've always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward,” he told the audience. More from this article at SLJ.

Librarians Need To Protect Patrons Privacy

Is the privacy of your patrons a sacred trust? According to Nate Anderson, "Librarians want to turn us all into privacy fiends."

Blogging in ars technica, Anderson reports on the ALA's new program to preserve and defend a patrons privacy: ""Law enforcement agencies at every level are exploiting fears about terrorism and child safety to encourage lawmakers to strip away statutory privacy protections for library records. This eliminates anonymity in the library, and encourages the mind set that 'good' people should have nothing to hide."

Anderson adds, "Librarians are well suited to mount such a campaign. US public libraries have more locations than McDonalds, and 62 percent of American adults hold library cards. That gives ALA members a natural place to educate the public about these issues and channel that education into public discourse and, hopefully, a new consensus on privacy and its importance."

FBI Targets Internet Archive... But Misses

Here we go again.

The Internet Archive protested the receipt of a National Security Letter from the FBI back in November. Today it won its case.

The Internet Archive, a project to create a digital library of the web for posterity, successfully fought a secret government Patriot Act order for records about one of its patrons and won the right to make the order public, civil liberties groups announced this morning.

On November 26, 2007, the FBI served a National Security Letter (.pdf) on the Internet Archive's founder Brewster Kahle, asking for records about one of the library's registered users, asking for the user's name, address and activity on the site.

Wired reports on the story.

FBI issues backdated Patriot Act subpoenas

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Wired <a href="http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/03/fbi-tried-to-co.html"> reports</a> that the FBI issued back dated blanket subpoenas to telcos to cover their acquisition of telco records. While I find the Patriot Act necessary, I also find its abuse repugnant.

Staying on Top of Recent Gitmo Developments

Oral arguments before the US Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States and the disclosure of two standard operating procedures manuals used at Guantanamo's Camp Delta have kept Law Librarian Blog editors pretty busy lately. For quick reference, a compilation of recent posts to source materials and analysis has been produced. See <a href="http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/law_librarian_blog/2007/12/staying-on-top.html">This Post</a>.

TSA Doesn't Like His Reading Material

Kelly writes "Amazing accounts from writer Naomi Wolf, who is finding out that, in her travels throughout the US, people are waking up to the encroaching darkness. Here's her book-related observations, "Someone else says that his friend opened his luggage to find a letter from the TSA saying that they did not appreciate his reading material. Before I go into the security lines, I find myself editing my possessions. In New York'a La Guardia, I reluctantly found myself putting a hardcover copy of Tara McKelvey's excellent Monstering, an expose of CIA interrogation practices, in a garbage can before I get in the security line; it is based on classified information. This morning at my hotel, before going to the airport, I threw away a very nice black T-shirt that said "We Will Not be Silenced" — with an Arabic translation — that someone had given me, along with a copy of poems written by detainees at Guantanamo." More here: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/10/12/450 2/"

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Parts of PATRIOT Act ruled illegal by US Judge

mdoneil writes "A United States District Court Judge has ruled that parts of the USA PATRIOT Act unconstitutional. The parts which amend the FISA were reviewed by the Oregon District Court Judge in the Mayfield et al case.
You may recall Mayfield as the lawyer who was arrested because his fingerprints were found in Spain after the bombings of the Metro in Madrid before their last national elections. Well, in case you were wondering it was a mistake — neither he nor his fingers were there.
Read the order here
It will be interesting to see how this plays out."

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Feds Record in Database Books Travelers Carry

Kelly writes "Looks like the next time I want to read Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang" or something by Noam Chomsky, I will need to listen to an audiobook version of it on my pod. Because, as it turns out, "The U.S. Government," according to the Washington Post, "is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials." Don't you feel safer from terrorists knowing the feds know what we are reading while traveling? I wonder why they need to keep such information in a database for 15 years? That's right — 15 years, not a typo. More here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2007/09/21/AR2007092102347.html?hpid=topnews"

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U.S. Airport Screeners Are Watching What You Read

In October 2001, a man was kicked off a flight because of what he was reading. In 2003, G-Men paid a visit to someone's house after they were caught reading anti-invasion materials. Then the FBI warned us to be on the lookout for persons reading almanacs. Now, Wired News reports that carrying around a book titled Drugs and Your Rights may also get you noticed by security personnel.

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