Resolution on the Reauthorization of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act

WHEREAS, freedom of thought is the most basic of all freedoms and is inextricably linked to the free and open exchange of knowledge and information; and these freedoms can be preserved only in a society in which privacy rights are rigorously protected; and

WHEREAS,  the American Library Association (ALA) is committed to preserving the free and open exchange of knowledge and information and the privacy rights of all—library users, library employees, and the general public; and

WHEREAS, ALA opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information; and

WHEREAS, the USA PATRIOT ACT includes provisions such as Section 215 that threaten the free and open exchange of knowledge and information; and

WHEREAS, three sections of the USA PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, are scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2009; and

WHEREAS, Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act allows the government to request and obtain library records secretly for large numbers of individuals without any reason to believe they are involved in illegal activity; and

WHEREAS,  orders issued under Section 215 automatically impose a nondisclosure or gag order on the recipients, thereby prohibiting the reporting of abuse of government authority and abrogating the recipients’ First Amendment rights; and

WHEREAS,  the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court has issued more than 220 Section 215 orders between 2005 and 2007, some of which may have been issued to libraries; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General reported that the "FISA Court twice refused Section 215 orders based on concerns that the investigation was premised on protected First Amendment activity"; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED:

  1. that the American Library Association urges Congress to allow section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act to sunset.
  2. that the American Library Association communicate this resolution to the U.S. Congress, the President of the United States and others as appropriate.