ALA President welcomes conversation with Attorney General


Bernadette Murphy

ALA Washington Office

For Immediate Release

May 2, 2005

ALA President welcomes conversation with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

(WASHINGTON) American Library Association (ALA) President Carol Brey-Casiano today met with United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss library concerns over section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. The Attorney General reached out to the library community several weeks ago, inviting Brey-Casiano to Justice Department offices in an attempt to facilitate dialogue about the needs of law enforcement and the privacy concerns of librarians.

Brey-Casiano took the opportunity presented by the meeting to reiterate the importance of
preserving the fundamental rights of free speech and free inquiry by protecting the privacy rights of the library user.
She assured the Attorney General that librarians' opposition to the PATRIOT Act is not an attempt to strip law enforcement of the power to investigate crimes or terrorism; it is an effort to assure that the government does not have the power to monitor reading habits of the public.

The American Library Association believes that government powers should be focused and subject to clear standards and judicial review and oversight.
Brey-Casiano said, “portions of the USA PATRIOT Act abridge people’s
First Amendment right to read and think freely. In this country, we are entitled to read and research a topic or opinion without the fear that the government is looking over our shoulder.”

The ALA offered concrete suggestions to the Attorney General that would remedy the unnecessarily broad provisions of the PATRIOT Act that threaten civil liberties. ALA suggested, among other things, a return to pre-PATRIOT safeguards on FISA Court orders to business records and “tangible things” that would require that the order name a person and specify a reason to believe that the named person is an agent of a foreign power. Other suggestions included requirements that the court order specify the records sought on an individual and that the statute provide meaningful opportunity for a recipient to challenge a FISA court order.

At the meeting, the Attorney General expressed his support for libraries and his interest in continuing the dialogue with ALA to reach an accommodation. Brey-Casiano said, “ALA welcomes the opportunity to talk with Attorney General Gonzales about the concerns the library community has about portions of the USA PATRIOT Act that intrude on civil liberties.”