ALA renews call for legislative amendments to Patriot Act

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

For Immediate Release
September 18, 2003

In wake of declassified report, ALA renews call for legislative amendments to PATRIOT Act

CHICAGO - The American Library Association today welcomed news reports that the Department of Justice had declassified its report on Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

"I am glad the Attorney General finally agreed to declassify this report after almost two years of seeking an open and full accounting of activity by federal agents in libraries," said ALA President Carla Hayden. "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.

"We were surprised to learn, however, that the Justice Department has never utilized Section 215 relating to the production of business records, particularly in light of previous statements from the Justice Department."

For example:

  • Last December, assistant attorney general Daniel Bryant said information had been sought from libraries on a voluntary basis and under traditional legal authorities, possibly including national security letters.

  • In March 2003, Justice Department spokesperson Mark Corallo said libraries had become a logical target of surveillance.

  • In May 2003, in testimony before members of Congress, assistant attorney general Viet Dinh said federal agents had visited about 50 libraries.

"In any case, we hope members of Congress will restore the historic protections of library records and pass one of the legislative proposals currently on the floor, such as the Freedom to Read Protection Act sponsored by Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)," Hayden added.

"Legislators and the general public can be assured that traditional legal protections extended to library records are not an obstacle to ensuring national security. We hope Congress will reject any additional measures - such as H.R. 3037, which would allow federal agents to use administrative subpoenas to obtain library and business records without any judicial review - that might abridge the rights and protections afforded by our Constitution."

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