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USA Patriot Act

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 12 months ago

Back to 2000s

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The U.S. Congress passed the U.S. Patriot Act in October of 2001 in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Rushed into law with little opportunity for debate or hearings among lawmakers, the Patriot Act broadly increased the powers of law enforcement to gather infromation in terrorist investigations. The act immediately drew controversy due to Section 215, which states that:


The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director...may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.


and goes on to stipulate


No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things under this section) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section.


Under the original wording of the law, this meant that library records (including patron and library Internet use records) were subject to federal seizure. Furthermore, agencies forced to yield to the law were not allowed to notify their users that records had been taken for investigation. Because of this challenge to the civil liberties of library patrons, the ALA lobbied unsuccessfully to amend the bill to exclude library records from the materials subject to seizure. The ALA continues to monitor enforcement of the Patriot Act and lobby to have Section 215 of the act amended to protect patron confidentiality, a task made more difficult by the gag order that surrounds those agencies which have come under investigation. In spite of recent attempts to have the law amended as of February 2006, the most controversial aspects of the act remained law.


Sources: THOMAS, American Library Association


By Katie H.


Back to 2000s

Back to Libraries and Intellectual Freedom

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