ALA

Contact: Frank DiFulvio
202-628-8410

For Immediate Release
November 18 , 2003

Public Statement by American Library Association President Dr. Carla Hayden Submitted to a Judicial Committee Hearing, "America After 9/11: Freedom Preserved or Freedom Lost?"

   (Washington D.C.) --  "The American Library Association affirms the responsibility of the leaders of the United States to protect and preserve the freedoms that are the foundation of our democracy, and we are committed to ensuring that our country is safe and secure," said Dr. Hayden. "We believe, and we practice the belief, that the free flow of information and ideas are at the core of what we seek to protect, of what makes our country strong. Vibrant discussion and expression and the ability to research both broadly and deeply are what have made the United States a beacon of freedom and they are what keep us strong."

      Dr. Hayden continues, "The ALA has long opposed efforts to censure, control, or to oversee the information sought by the public, particularly in libraries. Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association and lack of privacy and confidentiality chills users' choices, and can have the same effect as the suppression of ideas. The possibility of surveillance, whether direct or through access to records of speech, research and exploration, undermines a democratic society. Libraries are a critical force for promoting the free flow and unimpeded distribution of knowledge and information for individuals, institutions, and communities.

     The American public has clearly conveyed ¾ through the passage, in three states and 210 localities, of resolutions, ordinances or ballot initiatives protecting the civil liberties of their over 26 million residents ¾ its discomfort with some provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. We are, as members of the American public and as librarians, deeply concerned about certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act which increase the likelihood that the activities of library users, including their use of computers to browse the Web or access e-mail, may be under government surveillance without their knowledge or consent. We are also deeply concerned about the revised Attorney General Guidelines to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other related measures that give the federal government overly-broad authority to investigate citizens and non-citizens without particularized suspicion, to engage in surveillance, and to threaten civil rights and liberties guaranteed under the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.

     As the Committee is aware, the ALA has been very involved in advocating for legislation that would amend the USA PATRIOT Act to protect civil liberties and the privacy of the public while at the same time ensuring that law enforcement has the appropriate tools necessary to safeguard the security of our country. We have also advocated meaningful Congressional oversight of and accountability to the public for the implementation of these expanded authorities, and so we genuinely appreciate this hearing to address how the protection of civil liberties, privacy, and the free and open exchange of ideas enhance the vital efforts of law enforcement and the security of our country."

* Note: Endorsed by the American Association of Law Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association, Special Libraries Association