Your favorite book sucks, and is un-American
November 28, 2007 5:20 PM   Subscribe

So, whatcha readin? The John Ashcroft Alberto Gonzales Michael Mukasey Book Club wants to discuss your latest reads. Amazon thinks it's none of their business. So does your librarian. While it may seem that your reading list is safe, fact is you're actually just one National Security Letter or subpoena away from full disclosure. Want to change that? One step in the right direction would be to contact your Senator about getting S.2088 out of Committee and on to the floor. Oh, and tell them to vote for it. And then to override the veto.
posted by Toekneesan (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is why I steal books instead of buying them.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:28 PM on November 28, 2007

It wouls be interesting to see what conclusions do they actually draw from someone's reading list. Other than the obvious Mein Kampf and such, I wonder if there's somewhere a list of "dangerous" authors or books...
posted by lucia__is__dada at 5:32 PM on November 28, 2007

Until the law is passed, it's still illegal.

(Comment retracted)
posted by Balisong at 5:34 PM on November 28, 2007

It will be my Koirien Kalevala that ultimately condemns me, I just know it.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:36 PM on November 28, 2007

I dunno. Does this mean we can arrest people who read The Da Vinci Code? Because I'm all for that.
posted by Rangeboy at 5:41 PM on November 28, 2007

"Print is dead." - Egon Spengler
posted by ZachsMind at 5:41 PM on November 28, 2007

The "librarians" link from May 2006 is unrelated to this Amazon case, which has nothing to do with national security letters or the Patriot Act. This article from the AP has more:
Federal prosecutors issued the subpoena last year as part of a grand jury investigation into a former Madison official who was a prolific seller of used books on They were looking for buyers who could be witnesses in the case.

The official, Robert D'Angelo, was indicted last month on fraud, money laundering and tax evasion charges. Prosecutors said he ran a used book business out of his city office and did not report the income. He has pleaded not guilty.

D'Angelo sold books through the Amazon Marketplace feature, and buyers paid Amazon, which took a commission.

"We didn't care about the content of what anybody read. We just wanted to know what these business transactions were," prosecutor Vaudreuil said Tuesday. "These were simply business records we were seeking to prove the case of fraud and tax crimes against Mr. D'Angelo."
The article also describes the judge who rejected the subpoena as admitting "he believed prosecutors were seeking the information for a legitimate purpose." The opinion is here.
posted by chinston at 5:49 PM on November 28, 2007

I own all of John Scalzi's novels and I don't care who knows it. Unfortunately I haven't been able to finish "The Last Colony" or "The Android's Dream" or several other books by other authors because of a very mean looking spider who has strung webs all over my bookcase. That big bugger is gonna force me to buy a Kindle...
posted by wendell at 5:59 PM on November 28, 2007

It seems to me that printed books are still free, and a very democratic way to pass info. I fear that technology like Kindle will change this in more ways than we can imagine now.

(Kindles for Prisoners?)
posted by Riverine at 6:05 PM on November 28, 2007

The librarians link is older, but it's an example of a case where the Federal attorneys attempted to use NSLs, a form of subpoena, to get a list of books citizens were presumably reading. Yes, different kinds of cases, but a trend rather unique to this administration. I'd hoped to highlight first amendment principle that these instances represent, and that judge Crocker in the Amazon case noted when siding with Amazon.

From the AP story: "The subpoena is troubling because it permits the government to peek into the reading habits of specific individuals without their knowledge or permission," Crocker wrote. "It is an unsettling and un-American scenario to envision federal agents nosing through the reading lists of law-abiding citizens while hunting for evidence against somebody else."
posted by Toekneesan at 6:05 PM on November 28, 2007

Its funny: I'm doing a research paper on [redacted] for my History of Imperialism class, and I thought to myself, "Is it possible that my name could show up on the [redacted] list for checking out these books?"

After all, [redacted] is only marginally apart of the Middle East, yet there have been multiple [redacted] since at least [redacted] along with rumors of secret [redacted] in various locations around [redacted].

Could it be possible? Could a college student show up on a [redacted] list for just doing research on [redacted]? Part of me wants to file my own FOIA report with [redacted] to find out, but I fear that even if it exists, it'll be heavily [redacted].
posted by Avenger at 6:25 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

The idea that not only can the government subpoena your circulation records, but that we (as librarians) can not tell anyone that they have done so is appalling to me and has been since 2001. While I understand that at some point a patron's circulation history might give some insight into a crime already committed, I can not in good conscience support the notion that the request can be made and no one involved can say anything about it. Not only can libraries not tell you requests have been made, but they cannot tell any one. At. All. No press, no statistical reporting agency, no lawyers, not even the staff of the library that are not directly involved with the request.

The ALA's been fighting this for some time, and only last year did they get the Supreme Court to overturn that section of the Patriot Act. The problem was due to the way the law was written, it was illegal for libraries to even acknowledge that a request had been made. Only after a group of Conneticut librarians spoke out was it even able to go to court.

I'll absolutely be sending my senators a letter about this one. Thanks.
posted by teleri025 at 6:43 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

lucia__is__dada writes "It wouls be interesting to see what conclusions do they actually draw from someone's reading list. Other than the obvious Mein Kampf and such, I wonder if there's somewhere a list of 'dangerous' authors or books..."
On a wartime plane flight to see Hammett, then serving as editor of an army newspaper in the Aleutians, [Lillian Hellman's] baggage was searched. An agent dutifully reported that she carried such books as The Little Oxford Dictionary and H. W. Fowler's The King's English.

Miss Hellman's plays - including The Little Foxes (1939), Watch on the Rhine (1941), The Searching Wind (1944)- also came under official scrutiny. Later her memoirs - Un Unfinished Woman (1969), Pentimento (1973) and Scoundrel Time (1976), the latter an account t of her experiences and those of her friends during the McCarthy era - infuriated the neoconservatives and small bore literary warriors.

An unnamed FBI theatrical "critic" noted that her play, Watch on the Rhine, appeared to have "great social significance." (Everyone understood what that meant.) Also, that it had received an "extremely favorable" review in the Daily Worker, the Communist party newspaper.

. . . .

Thereafter, she was branded a "key figure" in the FBI's New York Field Division. Her writings were interpreted in a "confidential" biography. For example, she was identified as the author of the wartime screenplay, "North Star." The FBI summarized the film in these words: "A movie which depicts the outrage committed upon the peaceful people of Russia by the invading armies of Nazi Germany and those who have sacrificed their homes and themselves in resisting the Fascist hordes." Inclusion suggests an Alice-in-Wonderland set of values - Hellman a suspect because the Russians are victims and the Germans bad guys.
posted by orthogonality at 7:18 PM on November 28, 2007

I subvert the monitoring system by buying lots of gay porn. They think I'm a Republican.
posted by stavrogin at 7:18 PM on November 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

The response of the ALA and librarians everywhere (hi, jessamyn!) to the Patriot Act was a real inspiration to go to library school. It's an honor to be joining such a profession.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:46 PM on November 28, 2007

I also watch the gay porn, to strike a blow for freedom.
posted by stavrogin at 9:02 PM on November 28, 2007

I've starred in gay porn—to help my journalism career.
posted by drezdn at 7:02 AM on November 29, 2007

What was inspirational about the response of the ALA to the Patriot Act? I'm not trying to be a smartass here, I'm really curious.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:21 PM on November 29, 2007

About calling the Capitol switchboard.
posted by eritain at 10:39 PM on November 29, 2007

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