WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Library Association (ALA) is, frankly, saddened that two major revelations about our country’s surveillance practices confirm our gravest worries: the government has obtained vast amounts of personal information about the activities, especially electronic communications of all kinds, of essentially everyone in the United States, including millions of innocent people.
Late yesterday, reports appeared regarding the U.S. government’s program PRISM, which obtains the internet records from nine U.S. companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. This followed the earlier disturbing revelation on June 5 that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court had ordered Verizon (and possibly other phone companies) to turn over the phone records of all Verizon customers over the last seven years. It appears that emails, photos, online and social networking activities, as well as the phone records, have been obtained by the FBI and NSA. These two revelations about the amount of personal information received by the government, if true as reported, are very troubling.
ALA works to protect and foster First Amendment rights and civil liberties and preserve Fourth Amendment privacy rights, including what people read and how they use the Internet and other communications. Does the government really need this vast amount of information on everyone when the information is not related to some reasonable and individualized suspicion relative to a specific terrorist investigation?
ALA repeats its call for a true public dialogue on our nation’s surveillance laws and procedures and how to fix the flaws in laws such as FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and the USA PATRIOT Act. The public needs a way to become engaged to determine what degree of public accountability is needed and how to improve the balance between individual rights and the need of government to investigate terrorism and other harmful acts. There needs to be effective legal review, judicial oversight permitting transparency and public accountability – not wholesale fishing expeditions - to get personal information on millions of innocent people! Our country needs to find the right balance.
“ALA urges a public debate on how to find the best balance between protection of our civil liberties and the need to fight terrorism. There is no better place than the library – with a wealth of information and community locations for public dialogue – to start the discussions on these complex issues,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.
American Library Association