ALA | The USA Patriot Act & Libraries

The USA Patriot Act in the Library

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (“USA PATRIOT Act”) became law on October 26, 2001. The legislation originated with Attorney General John Ashcroft, who asked Congress for additional powers that he claimed were needed to fight terrorism in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. Few amendments were made to Ashcroft’s initial proposal to Congress, and the bill became law without any hearings or markup by a Congressional committee.

The USA PATRIOT Act amended over 15 federal statutes, including the laws governing criminal procedure, computer fraud and abuse, foreign intelligence, wiretapping, immigration, and the laws governing the privacy of student records. These amendments expanded the authority of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement to gain access to business records, medical records, educational records and library records, including stored electronic data and communications. It also expanded the laws governing wiretaps and “trap and trace” phone devices to Internet and electronic communications. These enhanced surveillance procedures pose the greatest challenge to privacy and confidentiality in the library. Visit the pages below for a thorough understanding of the USA PATRIOT Act.

“The American Library Association (ALA) opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry…ALA considers that sections of the USA PATRIOT ACT are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.”from ALA’s Resolution on the USA PATRIOT Act (See also Resolution Reaffirming the Principles of Intellectual Freedom in the Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks.) For more information on the USA PATRIOT Act, contact Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Deputy Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom; Telephone: 800-545-2433, ext. 4224; Fax: 312-280-4227;

For the latest news on the USA PATRIOT Act, visit Review IFACTION Archive



USA PATRIOT Act: What to Do If Served with a Search Warrant

Confidentiality and Coping with Law Enforcement Inquiries: Guidelines for the Library and its Staff

Libraries and National Security: An Historical Review (December 30, 2004)

USA PATRIOT Act Analysis by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

USA PATRIOT Act Analyses

State Privacy Laws regarding Library Records

Leigh Estabrook USA PATRIOT Act Surveys

USA PATRIOT Act Petition Drive: Tell Congress Today!

Resolution Reaffirming the Principles of Intellectual Freedom in the Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks

Resolution on the USA Patriot Act and Related Measures That Infringe on the Rights of Library Users

Resolution on the Use and Abuse of National Security Letters

Quick and Easy Links to OIF's USA PATRIOT Act Pages

Pending Legislation Concerning the USA PATRIOT Act

The Impact of the USA PATRIOT Act on Free Expression

Freedom to Read Protection Act



USA PATRIOT Act (Washington Office)



PDF version of Field Guidance on New Authorities (Redacted), enacted in the 2001 Anti-terrorism Legislation, issued by the Department of Justice
The USA PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty

FBI in Your Library

Links to non-ALA sites have been provided because these sites may have information of interest. Neither the American Library Association nor the Office for Intellectual Freedom necessarily endorses the views expressed or the facts presented on these sites; and furthermore, ALA and OIF do not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or available on these sites.

Related Files

The USA Patriot Act in the Library (PDF File)
The USA Patriot Act in the Library (.doc)
The USA Patriot Act in the Library (.rtf)

Related Links

Pending Legislation concerning the USA Patriot Act
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
FBI in Your Library
Confidentiality and Coping with Law Enforcement Inquiries: Guidelines for the Library and its Staff
USA Patriot Act
USA Patriot Act Resolutions of State Library Associations
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