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Is your library unpatriotic? The FBI has now started checking library records.
June 25, 2002 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Is your library unpatriotic? The FBI has now started checking library records. According to the USA Patriot Act, the FBI can research library records, all they have to do is prove a diluted form of probable cause to a secret court. Some librarians say they will resist the attempts by the FBI to view the reading histories of their patrons. If you think your local librarian is being unpatriotic or subversive, please send them hate mail, report them to the FBI.....
posted by insomnyuk (76 comments total)

 
and then kindly fuck off.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:24 AM on June 25, 2002


and then kindly fuck off.

How quaint.

I'm quite curious to know what the alternatives for our government are at this time. I am dying to hear of all the brilliant strategies civil libertarians have for avoiding future terrorist plots. Instead of sitting in your comfy office chair or dorm room, why not explain our options?

Cry wolf all you want. The government is damned either way, right?
posted by BlueTrain at 11:31 AM on June 25, 2002


Stop occupying foreign land we have no business being in. That would be a good first start. Lift sanctions on starving third world countries. That would be number two. I can go on, but you will just respond with some ridiculous assertion that U.S. hegemony is somehow moral, and that those silly savages are somehow better off for it.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:32 AM on June 25, 2002


Holy shit! I hope they don't find out about all those overdue Judy Blume books.
posted by ColdChef at 11:33 AM on June 25, 2002


I'm quite curious to know what the alternatives for our government are at this time.

Not looking at the library records of terror suspects?
posted by Doug at 11:34 AM on June 25, 2002


Heh. ColdChef, I was just coming in here to make a similar crack about Danielle Steele books. Judy Blume is funnier, though. Especially if you're talking about "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret."
posted by pardonyou? at 11:37 AM on June 25, 2002


Instead of sitting in your comfy office chair or dorm room, why not explain our options?

Also, BlueTrain, are you in some sort of uncomfortable office chair which magically makes your opinions more valid and informed? What does my location have to do with anything?
posted by insomnyuk at 11:37 AM on June 25, 2002


According to the USA Patriot Act, the FBI can research library records,
Those of us who have seen the fine motion picture "Seven" knew that already.
SPOILERS
Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt caught a serial killer that way, you know
posted by matteo at 11:42 AM on June 25, 2002


Libraries should be purging lists of any materials that you do not have currently checked out anyway. There aren't really too many good reasons for storing that data in the first place.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 11:42 AM on June 25, 2002


Maybe someone can explain how FBI access to library records might have prevented 9/11? The point has already been made that problem is not with their ability to gather information, but with their inability to process that information.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:42 AM on June 25, 2002


I believe that we're discussing libraries here, not comfortable or uncomfortable asses.

Now, to clarify my sarcastic comment above, checking for library information of private citizens is a huge pile of monkeydung. First of all, (let's be honest here) I'm sure that my reading tastes scare the unholy fuck out of my local little old ladies of libris.

Does that make me a potential terrorist? No. Does that waste a whole bunch of time and energy looking through information that doesn't deserve to be scrutinized? Yes.
posted by ColdChef at 11:43 AM on June 25, 2002


And besides, my current library card (active since I was in high school) says my name is Huck U. Fookey. My faith in the system is weak.
posted by ColdChef at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2002


So the next logical step is what? FBI tracking everyone's VISA purchases? My Safeway shopping club card? Every email and IM I've ever sent and every web page I've ever visited?

Hey, anything for some security, right?
posted by mathowie at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2002


BlueTrain: If you support this policy, would you mind elucidating in logical detail precisely how one's reading interests equate to carrying out a terrorism act?

This whole argument smacks of the same specious fervor with which some parents and moralists tried to claim films and video games as the primary instigators of Columbine, while failing to consider the parents, or frame acts of violence by psychological profile or previous behavior.

The difference between today and five years ago is that, amazingly, the entirely off-base association between media intake and actual activity is accepted by jingoists without question.
posted by ed at 11:47 AM on June 25, 2002


#1 - We occupy lands for a multitude of reasons; foreign stability, vested economic interests, etc...to think that we could simply back out now is naive.

#2 - Are you referring to Cuba? When they begin free elections, the US will lift sanctions. Why the hell would we give them our money and goods, knowing full well that if we buckled, Castro would only die as Cuba's hero for forcing the US to back down. Sorry, ain't gonna happen.

I can go on, but you will just respond with some ridiculous assertion that U.S. hegemony is somehow moral, and that those silly savages are somehow better off for it.

That's a strange assumption. So any ideas that challenge isolationism are immediately labelled as cultural hegemony?

What does my location have to do with anything?

It means that isolationists like yourself have absolutely no comprehension of real world politics. No one with a genuine understanding of US policy, history, and its economy would suggest we run away from all of the world's problems. There comes a social/economic responsibility with being the world's #1. If you can honestly assert that withdrawal from Saudi Arabia would solve our problem with terrorism, you haven't been paying attention to the crisis with Israel/Palestine or India/Pakistan.

BlueTrain: If you support this policy, would you mind elucidating in logical detail precisely how one's reading interests equate to carrying out a terrorism act?

I don't support the policy. But I've yet to hear an alternative. I've yet to hear a VIABLE solution to terrorist plots. And based on this, I conclude that this policy will suffice. We can point to the flaws in this plan. OBVIOUSLY our reading habits are none of the government's business, but guess what, until there is a formidable challenge to the govt's policies, they will continue. Until the bitching stops and concrete ideas are set into motion, I will continue to support this government's actions.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:55 AM on June 25, 2002


It is not the job of librarians to protect our civil liberties. It is their job to protect our books. I personally don't mind if the federal government goes in and sees what I've been reading. I think they'll be impressed the wide and varied extent of my interests, and the catholicity of my tastes. I'll defend my own civil liberties, thank you. I do, however, mind that librarians no longer bind their books in good sturdy, what-used-to-be-known-as "library binding," that they've cluttered their buildings with videos, CDs and DVDs, that they allow moronic teenagers to use the library as an afterschool social club, that (despite the cliche) no one has been shushed in a library for 20 years, that old periodicals are going unbound, that they've gotten rid of card catalogues, and that computers are crowding out books everywhere you look. A highly educated librarian friend of mine recently said that his job these days boils down to changing the paper in the xerox machine and logging perverts onto the internet.
posted by Faze at 11:55 AM on June 25, 2002


So the next logical step is what? FBI tracking everyone's VISA purchases? My Safeway shopping club card? Every email and IM I've ever sent and every web page I've ever visited?

They can already do everything you mention and a thousand things more - if they have a warrant. They have to have a warrant to get your library list, too, according to the article.

This mountain looks suspiciously like a molehill.
posted by UncleFes at 11:57 AM on June 25, 2002


It seems to me that with the sheer volume of information available in libraries, coupled with the amount of people who use the libraries, mixed with the manning level of hte FBI, kind of works out to be the needle in the haystack theory. It would have to be dumb luck for them to actually find anything really useful.
posted by a3matrix at 12:05 PM on June 25, 2002


This mountain looks suspiciously like a molehill.

From the article:

"The process by which the FBI gains access to library records is quick and mostly secret under the Patriot Act.

"First, the FBI must obtain a search warrant from a court that meets in secret to hear the agency's case. The FBI must show it has reason to suspect that a person is involved with a terrorist or a terrorist plot – far less difficult than meeting the tougher legal standards of probable cause, required for traditional search warrants or reasonable doubt, required for convictions."

The Patriot Act can apply to anything the FBI thinks it needs to get its hands in. I don't so much have issue with the secret hearing; I have a HUGE issue with the fact that they don't have to show probable cause.
posted by jennak at 12:07 PM on June 25, 2002


"It would have to be dumb luck for them to actually find anything really useful."

Sounds like the new FBI motto.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:08 PM on June 25, 2002


No one with a genuine understanding of US policy, history, and its economy would suggest we run away from all of the world's problems.

There is a significant difference between "running away" from a problem and actively exacerbating it.

I've yet to hear a VIABLE solution to terrorist plots. And based on this, I conclude that this policy will suffice.

Where's the logic in that? You admit that the government's efforts are wrongheaded (and perhaps just plain wrong), but since no one else has an alternate plan, you approve their implementing their wrongheaded plan? If we stationed a police officer in every home, we could cut down on all manner of crime substantially. Since you don't have an equally effective solution to put forth, let's just go ahead and implement that, shall we?

The ends don't justify the means.

They have to have a warrant to get your library list, too, according to the article.

It's the process and criteria by which they have to acquire one that is lacking. A warrant becomes a meaningless formality if it is there for the asking, rather than requiring that a certain burden of evidence and oversight be met.
posted by rushmc at 12:09 PM on June 25, 2002


until there is a formidable challenge to the govt's policies, they will continue. [BlueTrain]

Bingo. That's why we keep "bitching" -- though I might have worded it somewhat differently. "Participating in the democratic process" sounds about right. Dissent and protest are how we do that, between elections.

You say yourself you don't support the policy, and that they're digging for information that's none of their business -- yet you still, somehow, "conclude it will suffice" and support their actions?

Frevvin's sake, why?
posted by ook at 12:10 PM on June 25, 2002


#1 - We occupy lands for a multitude of reasons; foreign stability, vested economic interests, etc...to think that we could simply back out now is naive.

Yes, we have 'reasons', but that does not make them good. The U.S. military has 72,000 troops stationed in Western Europe. Utterly unnecessary. We should not be paying for their defense, or clipping Italian gondolas with low flying aircraft. Our government does all kinds of meddling which destabilizes other governments, or props them up if thats the current policy position. What would happen if the U.S. backed out of world hegemony? Dare I ask. Maybe then peoples in other countries could act on their own right to self determination, without interference from us.


#2 - Are you referring to Cuba? When they begin free elections, the US will lift sanctions. Why the hell would we give them our money and goods, knowing full well that if we buckled, Castro would only die as Cuba's hero for forcing the US to back down. Sorry, ain't gonna happen.

So our selfish pride dictates our foreign policy, rather than concern for starving thousands? Clearly, by this statement, you do not understand trade, or economics. We wouldn't be giving them anything, we would be selling them things and buying things from them, which economically would benefit all. Castro is already rich, that is a non-issue. The issue is that we should have the courage to recognize the foreign policy failures of past administrations, and get over them. If you want to play your beloved political game, Castro wins with sanctions because he can blame the U.S. for his problems.

It means that isolationists like yourself have absolutely no comprehension of real world politics. No one with a genuine understanding of US policy, history, and its economy would suggest we run away from all of the world's problems.

First, you call me an isolationist like its a bad thing, with absolutely no understanding of what the term means, and then you assume that anyone who is an isolationist has no concept of essentially, reality. I am an isolationist only in the sense that I am against military intervention and foreign alliances, along with trade embargos, sanctions, and the like. If "the real world" isn't the place to exercise principles, then I guess we should just be as Machiavellian as possible and see how much fun it is to live by the "might makes right" rule, until someone else is stronger than us. Then we'll be the ones complaining.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:12 PM on June 25, 2002


I think some, including a3matrix, are under the mistaken impression that the government has unfettered access to these records. There are still proof requirements that have to be met before warrants/subpoenas are issued. The FBI can not simply walk into a library and ask for your records, or do a search of all users to see whether someone checked out a particular book. If, on the other hand, you are a terrorist suspect, and there is sufficient evidence of that to kick in the government's investigative powers, then your records might be searched to see what kind of books you might have checked out. I can think of types of books that aren't (obviously) illegal, but could provide law enforcement with additional information on which to pursue their investigation.

I can conceive of a situation in which the U.S. has reason to believe an individual has connections to al Queda. They ask the library he is known to frequent to produce the list of items the man has checked out. I would think that if he has checked out books that discuss the explosive qualities of fertilizer, or how to fly a plane, or charts of the local water supply, that might just be helpful information for an investigation.

The question for me is really the validity of the gatekeeper -- is this a rubber stamp, or do they really look to see whether the threshold is met. Anyway, there's a little bit of Chicken Little going on here. Suffice it to say that they're not gonna go running into the Farmington Public Library to spend their time finding out when I last checked out a Dean Koontz book.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:17 PM on June 25, 2002


Stop occupying foreign land we have no business being in. That would be a good first start. Lift sanctions on starving third world countries.

Even if this would have stopped or delayed 9/11, 9/11 has already happened!. In the present day and for the forseeable future, the US will have to deal with terrorist plots no matter what foreign policy we adopt from now on. The people who hate us today will keep on hating us until they die.

What cracks me up is the completely self-centered lack of understanding of proportion ascribed to the FBI in the name of civil liberties. Does anyone here actually think the Gov't. gives a flying fuck what books you read?! Are you that self centered? Do you not understand there are 300+ million people in the US and the FBI is a gov't agency with finite time and resources? The gov't wants to catch terrorists as fast as possible so they aren't gonna waste time probing into random people's personal lives just for the hell of it. If you are a terrorist you should be worried. If you're not, the FBI is not likely to waste an iota of time on you!
posted by plaino at 12:19 PM on June 25, 2002


The ends don't justify the means.

That's one opinion.

Maybe then peoples in other countries could act on their own right to self determination, without interference from us.

Indeed. Slobodan Milosevic tried to do just that. And if we allowed him to continue, he would have ravaged most of Eastern Europe.

So our selfish pride dictates our foreign policy, rather than concern for starving thousands? Clearly, by this statement, you do not understand trade, or economics.

What pride? The US made the decision, long ago, that it would not negotiate with Castro until he freed his people from his personal clutches. Someone has pride, but it certainly isn't the US.

with absolutely no understanding of what the term means

I have never defined isolationism. Therefore, you have no clue as to what my understanding of the term is. Keep trying to patronize me, insomnyuk. It's clearly an endearing quality.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:23 PM on June 25, 2002


OBVIOUSLY our reading habits are none of the government's business, but guess what, until there is a formidable challenge to the govt's policies, they will continue. Until the bitching stops and concrete ideas are set into motion, I will continue to support this government's actions.

Change starts with bitching and complaining. That's when people start writing letters, open their checkbooks, spread the message, and vote differently. Speaking of government policy the US PATRIOT act was voted in pretty quickly and without consulting the electorate and ignoring any objections by civil libertarians. Not the model of democracy there, but its legal for now. The US PATRIOT act was a powergrab pure and simple handed to law enforcement by a very terrified (if i can even use that word) congress/senate. Considering that intelligence has yet to prove they were hamstrung by privacy laws and in fact has had so much info pre-9/11 regarding the attacks it makes one wonder if much of the act was needed at all.

The real problem with these searches is how little it takes to get a warrant now - not that its possible to get this information. The lack of traditional oversight is a much more important issue.

Even worse for the feds is this is arguably a violation of the fourth amendment. The constitution of the US requires warrants be based on reasonable doubt not trivial associations or hunches. (Have you ever been or known a communist?) Expect SCOTUS to shoot it down when it gets there. In the meantime the feds can enjoy my illuminating list of books.

Another issue I think is important is that databases cost money. Libraries are not known for their extravagant budgets. Why are these lists even being kept? It would make more sense to only keep the list for the most recent books in case of damage, late fees, or theft. Privacy policy for libraries anyone?
posted by skallas at 12:24 PM on June 25, 2002


If you are a terrorist you should be worried. If you're not, the FBI is not likely to waste an iota of time on you!

Wait until the government changes their definition of terrorist, as they are wont to do. Anyone who considers themselves a responsible citizen should be worried. That's like saying "Unless you are a criminal, you don't have to worry about the law which eliminates trial by jury." It doesn't hold up. Also, last time I checked, Jose Padilla is still in jail, and has still not seen a trial. Of course, this isn't new, Kevin Mitnick was jailed for 5 years by the FBI as a "cyberterrorist." Our rights have been eroded over the decades, it is only now that more people are noticing it, and now it is too late.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:24 PM on June 25, 2002


I don't support the policy. But I've yet to hear an alternative. I've yet to hear a VIABLE solution to terrorist plots. And based on this, I conclude that this policy will suffice. We can point to the flaws in this plan. OBVIOUSLY our reading habits are none of the government's business, but guess what, until there is a formidable challenge to the govt's policies, they will continue. Until the bitching stops and concrete ideas are set into motion, I will continue to support this government's actions.

I don't know. The FBI fumbled September 11 not because it didn't have enough information but because it had too much information and didn't know how to manage it. Instead of wasting money and manhours on library records perhaps they should be analyzing their own memos or getting on the streets doing interviews.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:25 PM on June 25, 2002


You know this whole discussion reminds me of these updated war posters.
posted by mathowie at 12:26 PM on June 25, 2002


until someone else is stronger than us. Then we'll be the ones complaining.

I don't see any countries out there as rich as the US and willing to spend as much on "Defense" as the US does. The US military and -- to a certain extent -- economic leadership is not in question right now (ten years ago everybody was shitting their pants because they thought the Japanese would take over America, look at them now, pathetic economy, they can't even take over Korea -- at least at the soccer World Cup)

The US's problem nowadays is those thousands of very well funded Third World terrorists. Many reasonable people think that on 9-11 another Cold War started, only this time the enemy is Arab terrorists instead of Reds. But the same ultimate danger (nuclear annihilation) is there, just like the same debate is there (the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft bareknuckle tactics, just like Truman's nice old Loyalty Oaths, provoked all the "our-precious-civil-liberties-are-being-tramped-upon" discussion)

Bush Father presided over the Iron Curtain collapse and now, isn't it ironic, his son and those old Ford administration Cold Warriors are fighting another Cold War, now against Osama's evil empire (and this time it is REALLY evil, no room for discussion here)
posted by matteo at 12:28 PM on June 25, 2002


Indeed. Slobodan Milosevic tried to do just that. And if we allowed him to continue, he would have ravaged most of Eastern Europe.

That argument is a sham. To prove it: if we do not overthrow the government of Sri Lanka, they Sri Lankans will ravage most of Asia. In other circles, you 'could happen' prediction would be termed as 'astrology', or 'end-times hysteria'. Try a better argument, if you can find it.

What pride? The US made the decision, long ago, that it would not negotiate with Castro until he freed his people from his personal clutches. Someone has pride, but it certainly isn't the US.

This belligerent attitude is indicative of pride, in my opinion. In any case, it is a flawed, stupid position to take, as I have already pointed out. We waffle on so many other foreign policy issues, whats the harm in changing this one. Certainly a new administration does not have to obey the dogma of the administrations and pundits before it?

I have never defined isolationism. Therefore, you have no clue as to what my understanding of the term is.

Well, since you already insulted isolationists, I have a pretty good clue. And considering I mentioned military non-intervention and dropping embargos/sanctions, and then you called me an isolationist, it is safe to assume you have made your position as well as your mis-understanding of what isolationism is, fairly known.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:32 PM on June 25, 2002


now against Osama's evil empire (and this time it is REALLY evil, no room for discussion here)

Is this a joke or are you actually serious? I don't see Al Qaeda in charge of any sort of empire. The Cold War was really about competition between two empires, in my opinion.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:34 PM on June 25, 2002


The immediate lesson to be learned here: Get your "iffy" books at the bookstore. With cash.

Nice link, Matt.
posted by rushmc at 12:37 PM on June 25, 2002


That argument is a sham. To prove it: if we do not overthrow the government of Sri Lanka, they Sri Lankans will ravage most of Asia.

That doesn't prove it. That changes the geopolitics completely. The sham is your logic.

In any case, it is a flawed, stupid position to take

Indeed, tell Castro to step down and we'll waffle immediately.

I mentioned military non-intervention

Which isn't possible. Therefore, it lacks a footing in reality.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:41 PM on June 25, 2002


Does anyone here actually think the Gov't. gives a flying fuck what books you read?

right. because if i am running for public office, or become a high profile critic of the administration, the fact that i checked out a video of the tin drum, or a book on living with aids or the black art of computer hacking would be of absolutely no interest to my political opponents.
posted by lescour at 12:43 PM on June 25, 2002


But the same ultimate danger (nuclear annihilation) is there

What nukes? The papers the coalition found regardling the building of nukes in Afghanistan were from a web parody/hoax site. Joe the dirty bomber doesn't even have a high school diploma.

Its in the interests of the US to sell al'quida as some huge global conspiracy sort of like the Islamic New World Order, but its really just a Mickey Mouse operation done good (or bad of course). Equating them the Soviets and the Cold War is so wrong its not even funny. In case you didn't notice this 'Cold War' got pretty damn hot in Afghanistan last year.
posted by skallas at 12:46 PM on June 25, 2002


I don't see Al Qaeda in charge of any sort of empire

It's kind of a figure of speech, insomnyuk, today you're kind of cranky aren't you? And anyway it depends. Al Qaeda is not one nation, with geographic borders: but it's thousands of well-funded and well-trained people "who love death just like Americans love life", as Osama said.
And anyway, there's one billion muslims in this world who will never like Israel (nor will they like Israel's friends) very much. And I'm willing to bet that a nice chunk of those one billion people are willing to make some distinctions about 9-11 (stuff like, "Americans usually attack other countries, it's sad but now it's their turn to be attacked") that Westerners don't usually make.

It's not an empire like the USSR, but it's even more dangerous. I don't think that old Nikita Khruschev ever wanted to train communist Kamikazes to detonate some nuclear device in the US. I just hope we can find a way to stop Al Qaeda before they do that. Empire or not

The immediate lesson to be learned here: Get your "iffy" books at the bookstore. With cash.
All those Chmosky readers with credit cards must be shitting their pants now
;)
posted by matteo at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2002


I am self-centered, and I'm embarrassed that the FBI will find out that it took me four borrowings to fully read "Microserfs".
posted by dong_resin at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2002


I thought Libraries were illegal according to the Copyright Protection laws anyways?
posted by zekinskia at 12:50 PM on June 25, 2002


but its really just a Mickey Mouse operation done good (or bad of course).
Yeah that's what the Clinton people thought after the first attack on the WTC (1993). Unfortunately, eight years later they got it right. You don't need college degrees to kill lots of civilians did you know that?

You have got to catch up with your reading man, there's lots of stuff on the Al Qaeda network at the bookstore.
It's a lot of agents, who are really really pissed, and they're hard to trace. They can do a lot of damage while people like you consider them a Mickey Mouse operation
posted by matteo at 12:53 PM on June 25, 2002


the BlueTrain v. Insomnyuk debate is kind of a weird little parallel thread, but this is utterly ridiculous:
Slobodan Milosevic tried to do just that. And if we allowed him to continue, he would have ravaged most of Eastern Europe.

Blue Train, I tend to side with you, more or less, regarding the necessity of US involvement in world affairs, but this claim is fanciful. Are you a PR flack for Slobodan or something? Not to defend that savage, but there is no evidence that he had any aims like this.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:04 PM on June 25, 2002


You say that military non-intervention is impossible BlueTrain, as if it is the Truth, and everyone knows it but me. Maybe so, but you haven't provided any evidence or argument other than "omg its completely unrealistic to do anything other than the status quo".
posted by insomnyuk at 1:11 PM on June 25, 2002


Yeah that's what the Clinton people thought after the first attack on the WTC (1993). Unfortunately, eight years later they got it right.

Unfortunately a year ago intelligence got it wrong. I believe the Clinton administration stopped more than a few terrorist attacks on the country so they weren't exactly pro-terrorist. Not to mention if intelligence didn't also believe they were Mickey Mouse either why wouldn't hawkish Bush immediately start bombing middle-eastern targets once he got into office? 9/11 goes beyond whatever administration differences there were and is an intelligence failure on a high level.

The Clinton bashing is uncalled for, if there were intelligence reports about future attacks and Clintons refusal to take them seriously Bush would be passing them out like business cards.

The same way McVeigh managed to blow up a building all on his own, al'quida got very lucky. Except no one cares about the domestic militants and their New World Order paranoia anymore, but after such a recent and large scale attack we have people equating al'quida with the Soviet Union (who had nukes in the thousands aimed right at us and vice versa) and buying the al'quida hype to an absurd degree.

You have got to catch up with your reading man,

I assume by reading you mean talk radio.
posted by skallas at 1:18 PM on June 25, 2002


The people who hate us today will keep on hating us until they die.

Right. perhaps if you had left them alone for the last 60 years, without CIA, NSA, your bombastic military interventions (remember Panama?), covert ops to overthrow governments (remember who helped train those "now"-bad rebels when Afganistan was still under the thumb of mother-Russia, support special-interest corporate land-grabs (gotta have those Banana's, let alone how your govermnent will whore for oil...)... maybe if instead of slinking into the shadows whenever it has been convienient, your really offered a choice to help people move towards freedom, and democracy, you wouldn't have this problem.

Hate is cyclical. It doesn't occur in a vacuum. Every bomb you drop on a village just raises another crop of children who have DAMN good reason to now hate you, even if they didn't before...
posted by jkaczor at 1:26 PM on June 25, 2002


Uhm, about all the complaining: stop complaining, start acting by NOT voting dumbasses up to government positions.

Then here's the plot to of my next movie, Eight.

Agent A discovers John Doe has moustaches, beard and doesn't have blue eyes and blonde hair. Suspicion level #1.
Being a grossly underpaid idiot full of envy against grossly overpaid investigators in private sector he decides he wants to dig deeper into John Doe life.


With the help of Agent B , he runs a credit card expenses check and discovers John Doe , during last September, bought a $6.69 book from Amazon.com. He wouldn't pay attention to this little details, but he thinks smartasses do pay attention to details. Unholy, the guy has bought a book about fertilizers. Agent B remembers that fertilizers are somehow vaguely related to explosives *flashback scene of first attack on TTs*

John Doe is really suspicious..why should one buy a book from Amazon when there are some many public libraries ? It must be some kind of rare , very specialistic book. By digging into databases they discover the guy is now living in rural Iowa, he owns a little plot of land. Very unlikely Agent B thinks..isn't Iowa owned by big grain conglomerate companies ? Why should a little farmer work there ? Doesn't smell good.

Another check into bank database, they discover the guy has a fairly good credit history and some money transfers from outside USA, not huge sums but frequent transfers.

That smells worse...why should a guy messing with fertilizers in Iowa have money transfers from outside europe ? Agent A notices they come from Israel.

A check on school databases reveals he has been living in USA since he was a kid, his parents are both from Israel, naturalized americans. Sounds like a couple from Israel moved to States, nothing unusual. Agent A discover from immigration database that the parents managed to have their surnames changed just a little, because the original surname is a common arabic one with an impossible pronunciation.

All the alarm bells ringing: this guy parents are arabic ?
It wouldn't be bad, but fertilizers, Iowa, a little plot of land...that sounds uneven.

A check on airlines database reveals he's a frequent traveler to Israel, at least once a year. Why ?

A last check on library database reveals he borrowed a copy of the Holy Quran and a book about small firearms.

By exploting some *insert special law loophole* they manage to obtain permission to question John Doe, but he's nowhere to be found. His neighbours haven't seen him in two weeks. They describe him as a loner, with little social activity.

After a week his name pops up from a computer, he just come back with a flight from Israel. Next day they reach him and start questioning about all the traveling. While talking they notice an hand grenade, used as an ashtray on a table. They question him about it, he says it's a toy he bought at a fair. They ask him if they can take it because they want to check if that grenade was in a stolen batch lost many years ago. He agrees.

The check revelas it's really an old grenade, without explosive but it wasn't from the states, but from a soviet production. While at John Doe house they noticed the guy had a lot of fertilizers stacked near the garage, more then he needed for his little field. Enough for evil uses.

Many doubts cross agent A & B mind, but a last check within military database revelas he served as military in Israel.

The guy is arrested, suspect of being a dangerous terrorist, on the grounds that he's an unusual freak.
After many months he's released because :

a) They discovered his parents moved back to Israel, to spend their last years in their land. His fiancee was born an lives in Israel. That explains his frequent traveling
b) The muslim surname comes from his father's grandfather surname, a converted muslim.
c) The money comes from his parents, who helped him
by sending some regularly from their bank account that is registered with their original surname. That was in american database too, but the surname checked wasn't the original surname.
d) The grenade is really russian, God knows why it showed in America. Maybe some used equipement imported by some military freak ?
e) He bought more fertilizer then he needed because he was learning about it, that's why he bought the book , but he didn't understand exactly the correct dosages.
f) He served as military in Insrael because of double citizenship. The israel database didn't have this fact.

So you see how much useless can a database be and how much troubles it can do, if you have morons behind it ?
posted by elpapacito at 1:40 PM on June 25, 2002


Maybe then peoples in other countries could act on their own right to self determination, without interference from us. Agreed! How much better off everyone would be had we stayed the hell out of Kuwait; Sadaam would have done what we are unwilling to do: topple the evil regime in Saudi Arabia and install a secular government, thus castrating the islamicist radicals. About Cuba: Since Cuba has free trade with every country in the world except the US, it is naive to believe that lack of trade with us is hurting them. Cuba doesn't want 'trade', they desperately want Credit from the US, because they cannot borrow from anyone else. Since Communism doesn't work, they have begged and borrowed at least 30 billion dollars over the years. I see no obligation to join that list of countries who will never be paid back and have, over the years kept the dictator Castro in power.
posted by Mack Twain at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2002


So if the government has a suspected terrorist, gets a warrant, grabs his reading list, does that mean that the FBI is going to read all of the books he checked out to find out what they mean? Man, that could be a neat job. Only responsibility is to read all day, get paid, and be helping to preserve national security to boot. Sign me up!
posted by gsteff at 1:47 PM on June 25, 2002


So if the government has a suspected terrorist, gets a warrant, grabs his reading list, does that mean that the FBI is going to read all of the books he checked out to find out what they mean? Man, that could be a neat job. Only responsibility is to read all day, get paid, and be helping to preserve national security to boot. Sign me up!
posted by gsteff at 1:47 PM on June 25, 2002


Skallas,
I'm not Clinton-bashing, I really don't care about him neither I do about W. I care about civilians safety more than I do about any politician's record
I'm bashing incompetence here: it's appalling that almost nobody in high-level law enforcement (and anyway it was Clinton, not me, who gave us the appalling Reno-Freeh duo) gave a damn about the first WTC attack, nor about the Cole. The Clinton people misread Al Qaeda's capacity for murder for eight years, the Bush people did for eight months, until a pretty brutal wakeup call on 9-11

The same way McVeigh managed to blow up a building all on his own
On his own? Really really really? Maybe yes, maybe not. There's lot of concern in the intelligence community about possibile links between militias and Arab terrorists, strange as it seems

I assume by reading you mean talk radio
You are wrong, I mean, certainly for the first time in your life, but you're wrong. I never listen to talk radio when I'm in the US because I can't really appreciate all its amazing subtlety
So I have to lower my standards and read Janes, and Rashid, and Bodansky, Stratfor or other funny intelligence drivel
posted by matteo at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2002


elpapacito: Sounds like a great flick! Where do I buy my ticket?
posted by ColdChef at 2:02 PM on June 25, 2002


gsteff: you know Utah Phillips, the great voice of the American Southwest tells this story about Bella Abzug's s lecture to a group of protesters that the FBI was reading their mail and that it really didn't bother him since it meant that those agents actually had to read the letters and while there was nothing really incriminating, there were fine bits or indoctrinating going on.
Now if you'll pardon me, I'm going to get as many books out on the House of Unamerican Activities and the Salem Witch Trials as I can from my local library.
posted by rodz at 2:04 PM on June 25, 2002


Coldchef: in a year or two it'll become daily newz , no need for tickets :)
posted by elpapacito at 2:04 PM on June 25, 2002


until someone else is stronger than us. Then we'll be the ones complaining.

I don't see any countries out there as rich as the US and willing to spend as much on "Defense" as the US does.


China, within ten years.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:15 PM on June 25, 2002


No one's asked about this, but do we have an expectation of privacy as far as library books? I believe that most libraries are technically governmental organizations...? It may be that, by virtue of the libraries' funding, we have no expectation of privacy here.
posted by UncleFes at 2:21 PM on June 25, 2002


My county libary system (Sonoma County, California) doesn't keep a record once material is returned. The local librarian explained to me that such a system was proposed, to make it easier to suggest books or other materials to patrons-- "You've read the last three Stephen King books. We're getting 16 copies of his latest! Click here to reserve your copy!" But the committee decided that it was (1) too expensive for too little gain and (2) open to hacking and mistakes. In the end, they improved the online system for reserving books and checking what books were in stock and used the extra money to buy privacy screens for the public internet computers at branches.
posted by paddbear at 2:27 PM on June 25, 2002


Librarians are responsible for a specific subset of your civil liberties: defending your right to read, and the sacred cause of intellectual freedom.

Just last Saturday, Robert Hughes, art critic for Time Magazine, opened the 2002 American Library Association Conference by taking a much stronger position in support of library patron confidentiality and the freedom to read than what's been expressed in this thread. He was roundly applauded.
American Library Association Resolution Reaffirming the Principles of Intellectual Freedom in the Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks

WHEREAS: Benjamin Franklin counseled this nation: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”; and

WHEREAS: “The American Library Association believes that freedom of expression is an inalienable human right, necessary to self-government, vital to the resistance of oppression, and crucial to the cause of justice, and further, that the principles of freedom of expression should be applied by libraries and librarians throughout the world” (Policy 53.1.12, “Universal Right to Free Expression”); now, THEREFORE BE IT

RESOLVED: that the American Library Association reaffirms the following principles, and:

Actively promotes dissemination of true and timely information necessary to the people in the exercise of their rights (Policy 53.8, “Libraries: An American Value”);
Opposes government censorship of news media and suppression of access to unclassified government information (Policy 53.3, “Freedom to Read;” Policy 53.5, “Shield Laws”);

Upholds a professional ethic of facilitating access to information, not monitoring access (Policy 53.1, “Library Bill of Rights;” Policy 53.1.17, “Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries”);

Encourages libraries and their staff to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the people’s lawful use of the library, its equipment, and its resources (Policy 52.4, “Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records”);

Affirms that tolerance of dissent is the hallmark of a free and democratic society (Policy 53.1.12, “Universal Right to Free Expression”);

Opposes the misuse of governmental power to intimidate, suppress, coerce, or compel speech (Policy 53.4, “Policy on Governmental Intimidation;” Policy 53.6, “Loyalty Oaths”); and, BE IT FURTHER

RESOLVED: that this resolution be forwarded to the President of the United States, to the Attorney General of the United States, and to both Houses of Congress.

Adopted by the ALA Council, January 23, 2002
posted by sheauga at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2002


No one's asked about this, but do we have an expectation of privacy as far as library books? I believe that most libraries are technically governmental organizations...? It may be that, by virtue of the libraries' funding, we have no expectation of privacy here.

That's a good question, I can think of a few responses.

1) There are many private and non-profit libraries, often associated with universities, which are not owned by the government. If that is the case, then these private institutions don't have to co-operate with the Feds unless they have a warrant.

2) Most 'government' libraries are municipal or county libraries. I don't know if libraries receive federal funds, but they are certainly not controlled by the federal government. These local governments have their own jurisdiction over the libraries, methinks, and the federal government would have to go through the same process as with private libraries when it comes to obtaining information.

If the federal government started building libraries and telling patrons they were being watched, well then it wouldn't be a violation of liberty if it was voluntary, but thats not the point, the role of the federal government is not to build libraries or spy on its own citizens.

Maybe the solution is to privatize libraries (disconnect them from government control, which of course is impossible so long as gov't funds are involved) and treat them like houses, where a judge grants a search warrant in the traditional way, not the fast-tracked, Patriot Act way, which involves using a secret court.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:48 PM on June 25, 2002


So we give up this freedom. Now the terrorist know where to go.
Officer #1: hey all we can figure is he was killed and his son says the library book is missing.
Officer #2: Who kills for a book, especially one from the public library.
Librarian: Gee you seem to be the second person to request this info, I thought the previous fellow said that he was from the FBI, you know I didn't think it would matter since it's public now, well for the government to know. Hey it is for turning people in who seem suspicious.
The book.
FBI: Why would we be checking, he was of no concern.
I have a book or two the may want, their college texts on engineering and chemistry. Check your shelves, those may be worthless to some, yet books can be like junk. Private libraries now that's where to look, still don't agree.
We give away our freedoms, so the government is private, fooey. Then again it is public, and it will snowball from there is what may really be the problem deciding here. I feel the commercialization of our private lives on tv are making it easier for me to say, yes document everything I do, no big deal. On preview, I think I repeated what some have said.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:06 PM on June 25, 2002


So you're saying terrorists are going to masquerade as the FBI, find out who is checking out the books they are interested in, and kill them and steal the books?

That's all I can gather from your post. I need to clear my mind, I think I'll watch Dog In A Coat about 15 times in a row.
posted by insomnyuk at 3:10 PM on June 25, 2002


On preview, I think I repeated what some have said.

Uh-huh. You definitely didn't do that.
posted by yerfatma at 3:26 PM on June 25, 2002


Many here have missed the major issue (rushmc mentioned it): obtaining a warrant has now become pretty much sans effort for the FBI. Please stop discussing whether the gov has the right to verify what you're reading and instead debate the fact that now all the FBI has to do is snap their fingers at a judge and say "we have reason to suspect" (behind closed doors) to gain access to your library reading history.

Oh, and BlueTrain, come on, stop derailing threads. This isn't the first time.
posted by ( .)(. ) at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2002


Are you a PR flack for Slobodan or something? Not to defend that savage, but there is no evidence that he had any aims like this.

Ty Webb, I beg to differ.

Maybe so, but you haven't provided any evidence or argument other than "omg its completely unrealistic to do anything other than the status quo".

I don't have to. You aren't providing solutions. This entire thread has yet to present an option to be used to combat terrorism. The only response has been, "No No...the government is wrong." That may be so, but as I said before, until the government has a formidable opponent, i.e. a VIABLE Plan B, your cries of invasion of privacy will be unheard.

Oh, and BlueTrain, come on, stop derailing threads. This isn't the first time.

Please tell me what "rail" this thread was on? Bash the government for an apparently ill-conceived plan to combat terrorism? Well, that's useful. A bunch of MeFites bitching, and I derailed it by questioning their reasons. I hang my head in shame.
posted by BlueTrain at 5:59 PM on June 25, 2002


BT, that's exactly it! You've answered your own question; this thread should have been dedicated to bashing this useless policy! Look, as someone mentioned above, there wasn't lack of intel, but lack of organization and cooperation between the big three (CIA FBI NSA).

In retrospect sorry for calling you out, no idea why I typed that line. But you still haven't provided a viable argument in favour (can you tell I'm from Canada?) of this new government power.
posted by ( .)(. ) at 6:21 PM on June 25, 2002


The only response has been, "No No...the government is wrong."

Sometimes that's the only appropriate response. Not to mention its assumed that the person saying that is also giving a solution - that current policing powers are enough.

The burden lies with the government. Even if they had a great justification they would still need to amend the constitution to repeal 4th amendment rights. Like I posted earlier, expect SCOTUS to shoot most of US PATRIOT down conveniently after its served its purpose.
posted by skallas at 6:52 PM on June 25, 2002


Yes, the courts are on the verge of allowing themselves to become superfluous for all practical purposes. And Congress, despite the unending vomiting of bills both specious and dangerous, is falling over itself in its efforts to kiss up to the executive branch and put itself in the same position. I can think of only one thing that could motivate people to go against both the principles of their country AND their own ego gratification: money. And lots of it.

"Balance of powers" looks to become a political concept as remote as "rule by divine right."
posted by rushmc at 7:44 PM on June 25, 2002


I don't have to. You aren't providing solutions. This entire thread has yet to present an option to be used to combat terrorism.

I provided one a while back, here are 4 things that are better investments of manhours and dollars.
1: Cultivating friendly insider contacts with businesses that might be inadvertent sources of bombmaking materials or weapons.
2: Develop a better information management and analysis system to use the legal information that the FBI already gets.
3: An old standby. Community based policing. This means less time serving warrants to libraries and more time cultivating relationships in communities where terrorists may be operating.
4: Better communication and cooperation with INS and with overseas police agencies.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:46 PM on June 25, 2002


Right on, KirkJobSluder.

insomnyuk: You are raising good questions, but it would take too much space to respond fully.
-- It turns out that public libraries and academic libraries are the ones that care about confidentiality. Private libraries, or "special libraries," may not keep circulation records confidential at all, especially in a corporate setting.
-- A general push to increase the privatization of libraries and information would be a disaster! Only those who could pay would get to play.
-- In the past, Federal Government has played an important role in funding libraries, although it doesn't necessarily allocate this money directly to individual libraries. (An example.)

Several posts have hit on what I think is real issue: the question of warrants for search and seizure.

I see no reason libraries should have to devote their limited budgets to monitoring activities, given that Internet usage could also be monitored by packet sniffing further down the pipeline without disturbing library staff. It's worth noting that an appropriate response may involve destroying, not collecting, or not retaining information. When the federal government starts to mandate document and electronic records retention schedules for public libraries, that's when to get worried!
posted by sheauga at 8:00 PM on June 25, 2002


sheauga: while I agree a debate on the setup of libraries would be too long for this thread (it would make for an interesting MetaFilter discussion though), I would like to qualify what I said about privatization.

I believe such a system (which people would have to form voluntarily) would include for profit, but especially non-profit libraries, funded privately, sort of like how the arts are supported by businesses and individuals in various cities. A non-profit organization has many different options and would probably be able to come up with ways to give free access to all. For-profit libraries (and they do exist) would surely cater to business and high level professional interests. Lexis Nexis is essentially a highly searchable, paid library which indexes hundreds of thousands of news stories. The same sort of thing would probably develop to some degree in large cities for certain professions, such as medicine, or law (there are already libraries devoted to such subjects), and in those cases "pay to play" would not really apply.

General information libraries would be better suited for a non-profit model, but it would be interesting to see how a for-profit library would work. It might result in more libraries, rather than just the chain of public libraries. I wonder how willing librarians are about giving up their tax dollars, especially if it meant their job market became tighter. Are the librarians unionized?
posted by insomnyuk at 8:28 PM on June 25, 2002


The ALA Q&A on the issue is also worth reading.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:24 PM on June 25, 2002


Do terrorists check out books, or do they just steal them?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:05 AM on June 26, 2002


insomnyuk-- The only real hope of putting public libraries on a non-profit basis would be if Bill Gates were to decide to emulate Andrew Carnegie, who put his immense wealth into creating our current public library system. This isn't likely to happen. As I understand it, Gates and his dad felt that the most promising thing they could do to make a difference in the world is to support work on immunology. Thus the Gates Foundation gives grants and software for getting computers and Internet into libraries, but its big money goes into immunology and public health. (Given the current situation with AIDS and bioterrorism, this was probably a wise choice.)

There are 2 really successful for-profit library chains: Borders and Barnes and Noble. Some public libraries are adding coffee and comfy chairs in order to compete. If you want to start a for-profit library, I'm available. Benjamin Franklin started some of the first libraries in the country as "subscription libraries," in much the manner you are describing. Just write out the business plan on how this organization is going to generate the revenue to pay my salary ...

There's a reason people are so adamant about defending public libraries! Here's the direction the for-profit, information industry alternative is taking us. It's a very short story called "The Right to Read."

If we give up tax dollars, that's the end of public libraries. Sorry, but that's how it is.
posted by sheauga at 1:06 AM on June 26, 2002


It's worth noting that an appropriate response may involve destroying, not collecting, or not retaining information. When the federal government starts to mandate document and electronic records retention schedules for public libraries, that's when to get worried!

Well, that would be the next logical step, no?
posted by rushmc at 6:42 AM on June 26, 2002


Blue Train, babe, did you bother to read your own link? It pretty much makes my point:

Milosevic as Hitler: Well, not exactly. Milosevic is the most dangerous European leader of the 1990s. He is a menace, a thug, a postcommunist villain who has cynically manipulated nationalism. He has blood on his hands. But his state does not have either the power or the ideological will to conquer Europe. While Germany under Hitler grew ever bigger, Yugoslavia under Milosevic has shrunk.
posted by Ty Webb at 8:45 AM on June 26, 2002


hmm...whoops. Google really is a double-edged sword. I won't forget this though. Give me some time...I'll find you a reliable source.
posted by BlueTrain at 1:00 PM on June 26, 2002


you forgot to add: *shakes fist*

: )
posted by Ty Webb at 1:23 PM on June 26, 2002


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