ALA President welcomes call, commitment from US Attorney General

Contact: Larra Clark, Press Officer
312-280-5043 

For Immediate Release
September 17, 2003

ALA President welcomes call, commitment from
U.S. Attorney General to declassify some PATRIOT Act reports

CHICAGO - Today, American Library Association (ALA) President Carla Hayden welcomed a telephone call from U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. In the call, the Attorney General expressed his concern that people have misunderstood his commitment to civil liberties and committed to declassify the Justice Department report on Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act amends the business records provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to permit federal agents to obtain library and other types of records when they are sought "in connection with" a terrorism investigation, rather than the higher standard of "probable cause" required by the Fourth Amendment.

"The American Library Association welcomes this commitment from Attorney General Ashcroft," Hayden said. "We look forward to learning how the PATRIOT Act is being used in libraries. This is an important first step toward having the information needed for meaningful public oversight and accountability. We hope this symbolizes a significant commitment to ongoing reporting to the American public and the U.S. Congress. As librarians, we understand the importance of open access to information. The American public deserves no less."

Several key legislative proposals to amend several sections of the PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, are now before Congress. The ALA calls on the American public to reach out to their legislators in support of these proposals and restore the historical protection of library records.

The ALA has been vocal on the issues of patron confidentiality and the protection of privacy. The library community stands ready to continue to participate in this important public debate and to seek the accountability and oversight necessary so that we can both counter terrorism and preserve our democracy's great strengths.

For more information on the USA PATRIOT Act and libraries, please visit www.ala.org/oif/ifissues/usapatriotact .