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First Patriot Act Library Records Enforcement
August 26, 2005 10:46 AM   Subscribe

The FBI has issued the first demand for library records under the Patriot Act. The library in question is somewhere in Bridgeport, CT. The ACLU is seeking an emergency court order to lift the FBI gag order, but they've been instructed by the gag to keep the person whose library records being sought (i.e., their client) a secret. What the ACLU has revealed is that the client is a member of the American Library Association (clearly, a front for terrorism). If any MeFites are interested in digging up additional details on this and start making calls, here's a good place to start. What indeed would the FBI consider so threatening?
posted by ed (57 comments total)

 
Evidently the FBI has yet to figure out that secrecy leads to rampant speculation.
posted by clevershark at 10:48 AM on August 26, 2005


What is the punishment for revealing that you are either the subject of the demand, or you personally know the subject?
posted by odinsdream at 10:49 AM on August 26, 2005


When I first applied for my City of Memphis library card last year I asked what would happen if the FBI came looking for my file. Turns out they don't keep records of borrowing history. As soon as a book is checked back in, the user is no longer associated with the text. They just keep a running tally in each book file of how many times it was checked out (presumably for accounting purposes).
posted by jmgorman at 10:58 AM on August 26, 2005


Best guess: Magnus Wahlstrom Library
(203) 576-4740

why? That is thge school library belonbging to the Univ of Bridgeport and it is owned by Rev Moon. Many many foreign students go to school there.
posted by Postroad at 11:02 AM on August 26, 2005


I'm not sure what interest libraries have in maintaining lending histories.

I'm against libraries, generally. Buy the book. I know I say this all the time. I'm like an opinion library... does that metaphor work?
posted by ewkpates at 11:03 AM on August 26, 2005


Phew. I heard this was in Connecticut, I was worried it was going to be my local library, and they'd find out I borrowed "Batman: Dark Victory" last month.
posted by Plutor at 11:04 AM on August 26, 2005


When there is no transparency in governemnt, things like Delay using Homeland Security to track down oppostion political parties begin to happen.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:14 AM on August 26, 2005


The FBI is probably setting the ACLU up for a bad surprise. Seriously, do you think they'd pick a little old granny librarian as a test case - which would make the FBI and the Bush Administration look foolish - or do you think they'd carefully select someone whom the ACLU will look very silly defending?

Nothing happens in this Administration that Karl Rove does not want to happen. I've never seen an administration so totally in control of every lever of government as this one. It's impressive. And damned scary.
posted by three blind mice at 11:15 AM on August 26, 2005


The US gets creepier by the day.
posted by chunking express at 11:16 AM on August 26, 2005


What the ACLU has revealed is that the client is a member of the American Library Association (clearly, a front for terrorism).

Huh? If Mohammed Atta had been a member of the AAA would that mean he was not a terrorist simply because AAA is a car organization and not a terrorist front? What if the "shoe bomber" joined a bowling league, would that have made him not a terrorist? Anyway, I'm not following the logic here. Couldn't you be a member of the ALA and a terrorist?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:16 AM on August 26, 2005


Good thoughts, Postroad and three blind mice.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:17 AM on August 26, 2005


Well Pollomacho already made the point I was about to make. I would guess that, knowing the push-back they would receive, the FBI has good reason to seek these records. But we'll see.
posted by Eyebeams at 11:19 AM on August 26, 2005


And now I see that three blind mice already made my 2nd point.

Guess I'll go back to work . . .
posted by Eyebeams at 11:20 AM on August 26, 2005


Four of the 9/11 terrorists were ALA members.
posted by geoff. at 11:23 AM on August 26, 2005


Just to throw out another bone here but didn't one of the anthrax deaths occur in CT?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:25 AM on August 26, 2005


.
posted by matteo at 11:25 AM on August 26, 2005


American Library Association (clearly, a front for terrorism)

You don't know just how right you are!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:28 AM on August 26, 2005


pollomacho: While I see your point, one can easily make the same inference the other way as well.
posted by ed at 11:32 AM on August 26, 2005


Or you can just let me do it for you!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:33 AM on August 26, 2005


Heh. Devious minds think alike.
posted by ed at 11:33 AM on August 26, 2005


The FBI recently offered me a job decrypting MARC records to uncover their sercret terrorist messages.

Here's some of my recent work:

245 00 |a American's hand-book : |b containing the Declaration of Independence, Washington's Farewell address, and the Constitution of the United States.
260 __ |a Rutland [Vt.] : |b G.A. Tuttle, |c 1855.
300 __ |a 72 p. ; |c 13 cm.
651 _0 |a United States |x destruction |v Handbooks, manuals, etc.
710 1_ |a United States. |t Declaration of independence.
710 1_ |a United States. |t Death to america.
700 1_ |a Washington, George, |d 1732-1799. |t Farewell address.
710 1_ |a United States |t Constitution.
985 __ |e OCLC REPLACEMENT cdsdistr
991 __ |b c-GenColl |h JK11 1855 |t Copy 1 |w OCLCREP

A few more weeks and we'll have these America-hating providers of free information up against the wall!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:35 AM on August 26, 2005


Would geoff care to provide some documentation of his comment that "Four of the 9/11 terrorists were ALA members?"

Not all of us librarians/archivists fit your stereotype...
posted by aldus_manutius at 11:36 AM on August 26, 2005


Those spectacle-on-the-nose shushing bastards, they'll pay, oh, they'll pay!

In all seriousness, wouldn't anyone like to find out why they want the records before heading to the Hoover building with pitchforks and torches?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:44 AM on August 26, 2005


Why would a terrorist with funding from [insert nation or organization] check out books from an effing library? Why not just buy them with cash at a local bookstore or two?

Doesn't the FBI have anything better to do than eff with the ACLU and the ALA? No amount of library record snooping is going to stop terrorism. Silly feds.
posted by shoepal at 11:45 AM on August 26, 2005


Regarding library lending history; my local library no longer keeps records either. I know because I asked if I could see my borrowing history because I was trying to remember the name of an author/book, so I could find more books by the same author, and I couldn't remember her name.

What the librarian told me was that after the PATRIOT ACT was passed, they switched software so that now no lending history can be tracked by anyone. All anyone could subpoena now is the list of current books I have checked out...or any overdue books, should I have them.

I was pretty surprised, actually. I live in the heart of a conservative area...so to get some real libertarianism from the library system warmed the cockles of my heart...even if it did mean I was going to have to stand around one of the sections of the library for a while hoping that I recognized a book cover. :)
posted by dejah420 at 11:48 AM on August 26, 2005


three blind mice writes "Seriously, do you think they'd pick a little old granny librarian as a test case - which would make the FBI and the Bush Administration look foolish - or do you think they'd carefully select someone whom the ACLU will look very silly defending? "

I don't know, you could be right, but, on the other hand, I've not been too impressed by the good sense shown by any branch of the Feds during the past several years.
posted by OmieWise at 11:49 AM on August 26, 2005


robocop-is-bleeding, was that a local entry record? Which authority files did you use? LCSH, VRA, AAT? I know you're following AACR2R, but have you considered using DACS instead?

8-}
posted by aldus_manutius at 11:50 AM on August 26, 2005


You don't know just how right you are!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:28 AM PST on August 26

pollomacho: While I see your point, one can easily make the same inference the other way as well.
posted by ed at 11:32 AM PST on August 26


I think I'm more scared by the ad on the sidebar of that site that reads: "Stick it to Hillary! Secrets of Conservative Millionaires Revealed". I'm... a little uncertain how becoming wealthy sticks it to Mrs. Clinton.

As for the article, I'm hoping you two posted this in satire cause it's blowing my mind.

To underscore his amti-Israeli views, President Freedman screened a documentary about Noam Chomsky and a speech by Amy Goodman, the far-left hostess of the Democracy Now radio show, at this January’s Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia.

And that's it, end of paragraph. Tolerating Chomsky's views means you hate Israel. And all the scare quotes that aren't actual quotes, it's like a rhetorical candy land!
posted by Talanvor at 11:52 AM on August 26, 2005


If any MeFites are interested in digging up additional details on this and start making calls, here's a good place to start.

Yeah. Nothing says supporting a local library like deluging it with phone calls.

Any library being served by the FBI has enough problems on its hands without having to deal with answering the same questions a hundred times.

My recommendation: make sure this stays news. Write letters to your local papers, tell your friends. But leave the libraries alone for the time being, and wait to see exactly what information does comes up. If the ACLU is defending this guy, then they are probably doing everything that is legally possible to get the information they need and to prepare for it to be made publicly available.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:58 AM on August 26, 2005


I didn't even know that ALA members had stereotypes. I mean to a degree whenever I think of an ALA member I think of my high school English teacher (the anarchy stopped at having an afternoon Hershey bar and not telling anyone).
posted by geoff. at 12:01 PM on August 26, 2005


aldus_manutius writes "robocop-is-bleeding, was that a local entry record? Which authority files did you use? LCSH, VRA, AAT? I know you're following AACR2R, but have you considered using DACS instead?"

Careful, you may give them libermabrarians ideas! They're all over! They even have a high placed spy in the White House!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:02 PM on August 26, 2005


The Patriot Act puts a gag order on the libraries that have to turn over records. The ACLU's client is probably not the subject of the FBI's investigation, it's most likely the library employee who was forced to turn over patron records and keep the government's intrusion secret.

Papers reveal that the client, whose identity must remain a secret under the gag, “strictly guards the confidentiality and privacy of its library and Internet records.” The client is a member of the American Library Association.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:07 PM on August 26, 2005


I think this is really an asserting of authority. The point has been made that this power given by the Patriot Act has never been used. With debate on-going about letting certain sections lapse, I suspect they want to use it rather than lose it.

Of course I have no evidence to support that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:08 PM on August 26, 2005


Well Pollomacho already made the point I was about to make. I would guess that, knowing the push-back they would receive, the FBI has good reason to seek these records. But we'll see.
posted by Eyebeams at 11:19 AM PST on August 26 [!]


What would be a good reason to check up on someone's reading material? I mean, it would have to involve critical information that couldn't be obtained elsewhere. And if there is a good reason, couldn't it be used to justify monitoring everyone's reading material? How about bookstore purchases? Video rentals and purchases? Telephone conversations? Would you feel comfortable with that, the government knowing what you're reading and thinking about?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:13 PM on August 26, 2005


Where it says "good" reason, you should read "politically acceptable" reason.

There is no good reason. Growing up, I was always told how lucky I was to live in a country where I could read and write anything I wanted without fear of repercussion.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:16 PM on August 26, 2005


Whatever happened to the good ol' days when the FBI just broke in and photocopied the records? tsk tsk
posted by mischief at 12:23 PM on August 26, 2005


One of the ways that Wood-stein traced Howard Hunt and the Watergate burglary/coverup was through Hunt's library records from the Library of Congress.

I would imagine if you were the FBI and you were developing a case on a suspect for, say, 'thraxing an old lady, it would be useful to have documentation of the suspect's library records pertaining to some checked out microbiology books, no?

If there is a good reason wouldn't you want it to justify whatever it took? It's a good reason, by definition a good reason is good. Why would having good reason to search one person's records give good reason to search everyone's records?

A drop of blood found at a crime scene does not automatically make everyone with blood a suspect.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:25 PM on August 26, 2005


My problem, as always, is that under the Patriot Act they don't need a warrant to get the records. If they had to go to a judge and convince him or her that they had a good reason to get those records, I say fine, let them have at it. It's the no judicial oversight thing that gets me.
posted by goatdog at 12:44 PM on August 26, 2005


This makes me glad that I've always been one to buy books, rather than check them out. Libraries don't work for me as I have some sort of pyschological barrier against returning a book. It's just impossible.

Of course, the Feds could subpeona my buying history from my local bookish emporia (emporiums?), but I think that it would take more time to do so than it would really be worth to discover that I'm a big fat terrorist who is very suspiciously reading about smallpox.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:11 PM on August 26, 2005


Um, goatdog, under section 215, the FBI has to apply to a judge for permission to obtain the records.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:16 PM on August 26, 2005


If you read section 215 it kind of makes me wonder if the author of this page actually read the section.

ACLU: The FBI can investigate United States persons based in part on their exercise of First Amendment rights

USA PATRIOT: An investigation conducted under this section shall...not be conducted of a United States person solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:22 PM on August 26, 2005


You bunch of fucking whiners. Do you realize that they never would have found Fingerprintless Kevin Spacey if not for the Patriot Act?
posted by solistrato at 1:24 PM on August 26, 2005


goatdog: My problem, as always, is that under the Patriot Act they don't need a warrant to get the records. If they had to go to a judge and convince him or her that they had a good reason to get those records, I say fine, let them have at it. It's the no judicial oversight thing that gets me.

I don't think that's true. The warrants come from an expedited sealed court.

Pollomacho: I actually don't have a problem with serving an agency or business a warrant to turn over records relating to specific people. However, the automatic gag rule on this makes oversight of these warrants difficult.

All branches of government are ultimately accountable to the people. A secret judiciary undermines that accountability.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:33 PM on August 26, 2005


It seems like this is an unjustified power grab regardless of whether the FBI has targeted the "right" person. Either:

1. They have tons of evidence to prove that this is a bad person; in that case, the library records are not going to add much to an investigation. Bear in mind that if this is a person they are actually going to prosecute at some point, the library evidence could be obtained by a traditional subpoena or warrant, based on probable cause and a judge's approval, even after they arrest the person, and not on this covert, "emergency" basis. I find it hard to believe that this evidence is what they need to tip the scales and arrest this person.

OR

2. They don't have much (or any) evidence, and they really think they need this information to build their case. In that case, allowing this to go forward puts us much more at risk of having it happen to us. If it goes forward based on scant evidence, it puts us all at risk, regardless of whether it's really a bad person. Remember that the people whose cases gave us our rights weren't model citizens either. Miranda wasn't innocent; Blakely wasn't innocent; neither were Brady or Mapp.

We've made decisions in our history that we don't want the police and the prosecutors deciding when someone's privacy can be invaded. It doesn't mean the jobs of policing and prosecuting can't get done; just that a somewhat more detached party (the judge) will make the decision of when it's worth invading privacy.

And by the way, the Patriot Act, section 215 requires the following:

`(c)(1) Upon an application made pursuant to this section, the judge shall enter an ex parte order as requested, or as modified, approving the release of records if the judge finds that the application meets the requirements of this section.

A rubber stamp. And lest you think that the process of finding that the application meets the requirements of the section is somehow tantamount to review for probable cause (or reasonable suspicion, or anything), here is the requirement that the judge must find it meets:

`(2) shall specify that the records concerned are sought for an authorized investigation conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities

The judge is reviewing to make sure that the application says it is looking for the records for these purposes. There is no review of the underlying facts.
posted by mabelstreet at 1:34 PM on August 26, 2005


Pollomacho: What mabelstreet said.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:38 PM on August 26, 2005


While I do agree with you mabelstreet, the section does specify that the judge or magistrate must make sure that the search is conducted under (a)(2) which means that the investigation must not be based on a person's first amendment expression, so there is at least that review.

Once we manage to weed out the activist judges, there will be nothing stopping us though!

*evil cackle*
posted by Pollomacho at 1:59 PM on August 26, 2005


three blind mice:
rewind a few years...
The [president] is probably setting the [world] up for a bad surprise. Seriously, do you think they'd pick a [country that doesn't threaten any neighbours] as a test case - which would make the FBI and the Bush Administration look foolish - or do you think they'd carefully select [a country with wmds] whom the [world] will look very silly defending?


Their competence level doesn't seem to be too high...
posted by Iax at 2:17 PM on August 26, 2005


Pollomacho writes "If Mohammed Atta had been a member of the AAA would that mean he was not a terrorist simply because AAA is a car organization and not a terrorist front?"

If there's a terrorist among MeFites, I propose that Pollomacho should take the BCS on behalf of the rest of us.
posted by clevershark at 2:35 PM on August 26, 2005


What kind of library carries terrorist training manuals anyway?
posted by clevershark at 2:40 PM on August 26, 2005



clevershark: anarchivists.
posted by darkstar at 4:27 PM on August 26, 2005


What indeed would the FBI consider so threatening?

A car parked in the library lot with a "No Blood For Oil" bumper sticker?
posted by nofundy at 6:49 PM on August 26, 2005



clevershark: anarchivists. --darkstar

Hee!
posted by dejah420 at 8:08 PM on August 26, 2005


What the librarian told me was that after the PATRIOT ACT was passed, they switched software so that now no lending history can be tracked by anyone. All anyone could subpoena now is the list of current books I have checked out...or any overdue books, should I have them.

At a lot of libraries you get to choose. At the one I most recently worked at, you could choose via the online catalog, to have your reading list saved [and possibly subject to a subpoena or whatever] or not saved. The big switch has been how the online catalog software was set to default. In the past, it was more likely to save everything. Now, more are defaulting to save less and more libraries are configuring their catalogs to show no record of you borrowing the book once it's been returned. This is not always true if you have fines on your account, however, since many catalogs keep the record of the book that accrued the fine until you pay the fine.

Being a member of ALA doesn't necessarily mean that you're a library, though it's likely. It could be a business, particularly one that does a lot of business with libraries, or it could be a local civil rights organization that works with libraries. Chances are high that it's a library. I'm on the governing body of ALA and they take this sort of stuff pretty seriously. The ACLU has been trying to for a good long time to get a librarian/library willing to be a test case for them on USA PATRIOT Act issues. I'm very curious to see how this plays out.

The FBI and local law enforcement has always been able to get a regular old subpoena for records if they believe that a crime is being committed, but the FISA Court [which reviews requests for records under UASPA] has different standards and sealed records which places an unusual amount of secrecy on the proceedings. I can see why a librarian might not be able to tell a suspect that the feds were looking for them. However to not be able to tell ANYONE [staff, other members of the public, basically anyone short of your own lawyer] that, say, the hard drives of the library computers had been scanned, or keytrapping software was put on the computers, or that patrons' borrowing records were seized, that just seems extralegal.
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 PM on August 26, 2005


The University of Bridgeport IS owned by Rev. Moon's Unification Church. I was piqued into looking it up on Google and Wikipedia. That does not answer why the FBI would investigate anybody there; it seems to me that any hidden hoo-doo the Moonies would do would be PRO- U.S. government. This is God's country, you know. Of course I could be wrong, and my reading shows there were factional squabbles even within Stalin's NKVD. (Yes RCM, the analogy sounds hyperbolic now -- so far.)

Second: I'm smirking here. I've been warning people about this shit for years, but the general response is "It can't happen here, you paranoid radical." But time and again the government has done something I've been warning people they will, and time and time again I've gotten to say "I told you so." It's not that anybody needs a crystal ball either: history shows that any power the Government arrogates to itself it will sooner or later use, and that whatever power it has at any point will never be enough to stop it wanting more. But go ahead, stay asleep: it's so much easier to surrender everything than to fight for anything, isn't it, and we Americans prefer that everything be easy, don't we.

--
And by the way, just because I love publicly giving the finger to the FBI, the books I currently have out from the Louisville Free Public Library are the following:

1) The road to terror : Stalin and the self-destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939 /, Getty, J. Arch 1950-

(This one's really good: here's the Amazon link; surprisingly Amazon has no reviews, but it has been reviewed elsewhere, at Yale for example [though this link should not be construed as an endorsement of this reviewer's views].)


2) Crime and deviance : essays and innovations of Edwin M. Lemert /, Lemert, Edwin McCarthy, 1912-

(That's general sociological stuff. Nothing in there about pipe bombs or poisons.)


3)Cities in civilization /, Hall, Peter Geoffrey.

("Civilization depends on neat stuff happening in neat cities!")


4) Our Napoleon in rags : a novel /, Gann, Kirby, 1968-

(This is a novel about a gay bipolar eccentric set in Louisville by a local author.)


5) The coasts of Bohemia : a Czech history /, Sayer, Derek.

and

6) Bohemia in history / edited by Mikuláš Teich.,

(Two Czech histories, because I knew next to nothing about the country.)


And last and probably least:

7) The boys are back in town /, Golden, Christopher.

(Fantasy fiction: two highschool boys play with Magick and bad stuff happens. BOO!)

Note that publishing this list here should not be construed as giving permission to any government agency anywhere in the world or anyone employed by them or acting in their interest to perform any investigations of any of my library records; besides, if I were going to read up on, say, how to use pipe bombs filled with anthrax to overthrow the government, I would not be stupid enough to leave such an easily followed trail.
posted by davy at 9:40 PM on August 26, 2005


Sorry Davy, I checked out all those book from the LFPL and accidently packed them when I moved.

Those of you who plan to ask your local public library if your records are kept should make sure to ask the systems administrator. Sometimes the librarian will (correctly) inform you of the policy. The policy isn't always the reality.

Using my old library (not LFPL) for an example, if a circulation clerk looked up your record they would only find those items you currently have checked out, items where you still have a fine, and those items you reported lost.

However, the library also kept (keeps) the last three patrons for each item. This was done in case you bring an item back and claim it was damaged when you opened it. That way the library can see who had the item last. The idea was to find a pattern. If a bunch of books start coming back with the curse words inked out and a particular patron is always the person who last had the book and who didn't report the damage..the library could suspend the patrons privileges.

I don't think it ever happened. But the data is still kept that way.

So, if the FBI took the raw records they could search for every item that still had your name listed as one of the last three to check out the item.

And since Davy is the only one who'd check out "How to Overthrow the Government With Bombs Filled with Anthrax and Other Recipes" by Martha Stewart then the FBI would know even if he checked it out a year ago.
posted by ?! at 11:51 PM on August 26, 2005


what are terrorists doing reading A List Apart?
posted by Satapher at 3:43 AM on August 27, 2005


dejah420 writes ".even if it did mean I was going to have to stand around one of the sections of the library for a while hoping that I recognized a book cover. :)"

Never a bad way to spend an afternoon.
posted by Mitheral at 9:58 AM on August 27, 2005


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