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FBI in the library
June 22, 2003 11:45 PM   Subscribe

The FBI has not been here. Librarians, who can be required by the FBI to submit library records of private citizens under the PATRIOT Act--and who are prohibited from making these requests public--have invented some clever, legal strategies to fight back. (via japanesejoint.com)
posted by Espoo2 (13 comments total)

 
Where are all these mythical cool librarians I keep hearing about? And why won't any of them come replace the anal-retentive weenies that populate my school's libraries?
posted by Space Coyote at 2:11 AM on June 23, 2003


The FBI has not been to this thread.

(Matt, known past FBI IP's include 213.41.x.x, 209.249.x.x, 195.92.x.x, I believe)
posted by namespan at 4:36 AM on June 23, 2003


Cute, but when the FBI turns up with proper papers, you submit what they ask for or else...
posted by Postroad at 5:19 AM on June 23, 2003


Postroad, I think you're missing the point. This isn't an indication that librarians are planning on necessarily disobeying the law, but instead a way of notifying library patrons that the feds may(or may not) be monitoring their activities.
posted by 40 Watt at 5:57 AM on June 23, 2003


What 40 Watt said. We can't let our users (I work in a large urban public library) know if they are being monitored, and if someone from the FBI walks up to me and says "I need xxxx, and you must comply under the Patriot Act" I can't even tell my coworkers what has happened (under the PA). I technically have the right to contact the library's lawyer, but the law as I understand it is vague enough so that if I attempt to contact the lawyer and she's unavailable for some reason (if it's late in the evening, say), I can be arrested for contempt if I don't produce whatever they ask me for in a "reasonable" amount of time--even, as I understand it, if it is out of my power to produce what they're looking for. Further, I can't let anyone know why I've been arrested (as I understand it), other than to say "Patriot Act." This is not to say that such a circumstance would happen, but the Act is vague enough to allow for some twisted manipulations of due process.

(BTW, thanks to our own Jessamyn for those signs!)
posted by arco at 6:18 AM on June 23, 2003


Cool. Librarians kick ass. Here's some (pre-Patriot Act) historical background info on librarians and privacy. I think I first heard of this issue after Hinckley shot Reagan and the feds found his library card in his pocket, and everybody descended on Jefferson County Library, Colorado, to try and find out what he'd been reading.
posted by carter at 6:42 AM on June 23, 2003


Cute, but when the FBI turns up with proper papers, you submit what they ask for or else...

That's why libraries are now making an effort to make sure they won't have what the FBI wants by the time they turn up. There's no law (yet) about how long you have to keep your records before destroying them.
posted by uosuaq at 7:24 AM on June 23, 2003


SpaceCoyote, the cool librarians work for the library in my town.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:25 AM on June 23, 2003


Cute, but why do we need to do this? Because we are losing the battle for civil and personal rights in this country. The Supreme Court just announced that it's AOK to force libraries to intall "porn" filters. Where are we heading?
posted by Outlawyr at 7:36 AM on June 23, 2003


Marge: Homer! Are you licking toads again?
Homer: I'm not not licking toads!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:33 AM on June 23, 2003


That's a pretty sad and chilling (among many other things) situation you're describing, arco. I thank you for sharing. You guys certainly seem to be a pretty dedicated lot. I know some who'd be considering taking days off at random and muttering a simple "Patriot Act!" as all explanation for their repeated absences.
posted by magullo at 9:30 AM on June 23, 2003


Please note I may be wrong about the details of how the Patriot Act could play out in the situation I mentioned above (the act seems to be unconstitutional on so many levels that I can't quite make sense of it). However, just last week we had our lawyer give a run-down of the Act and its consequences at our yearly staff development day, and the situation as I described seems to be correct.

More about the Patriot Act and libraries here.
posted by arco at 9:59 AM on June 23, 2003


This isn't an indication that librarians are planning on necessarily disobeying the law, but instead a way of notifying library patrons that the feds may(or may not) be monitoring their activities.

Depends on the library, honestly. There's a real conflict between the USA PATRIOT Act [no, I'm not yelling it's a huge freaking acronym] and other "laws" like freedom of speech etc. The huge deal is that there is a gag order on librarians and booksellers. If the feds ask for info, compliance is one thing [and possibly mandated by this law] but not being able to TELL anyone about their visit is patently illegal.... and of dubious necessity. I wrote a longer article on the USAPA here and I'd write more but I'm currently in Toronto at the American Library Association [and Canadian Library Assoc] conference going to meetings on what to do when the feds come to your door....
posted by jessamyn at 5:58 AM on June 24, 2003


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