Thursday, June 16, 2005


The Patriot Act Begins to Crumble

The provisions in the Patriot Act that allowed government officials -- without warning, with no public mention allowed -- to snoop into the records of libraries and bookstores were among the draconian law's least popular aspects. Librarians across the country, for example, were quite unhappy that the government no longer consider the list of who checked out what to be private (the American Library Association has been very careful in how they talk about the law, but clearly don't like the feds intruding into people's reading habits). (Cities and towns across the country have been even more vocal in their opposition -- some 152 passed resolutions denouncing the act.)

Yesterday, Congress started to catch the anti-Patriot Act fever. Conservative members of the House joined with liberal Democrats to curb the FBI's ability to seize library and bookstore records ("House Votes To Curb Patriot Act: FBI's Power to Seize Library Records Would Be Halted"). President Bush has threatened to veto anything that cuts back the powers outlined in the Patriot Act.

Fifteen provisions of the Patriot Act are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Bush plans to barnstorm (in the manner of his Social Security national tour) in favor of keeping them all. If the public gets behind it in a vocal way, early signs are that Congress may very well be in the mood to start once again paying a little respect to the Bill of Rights, which has been on the back-burner since the official launch of the "permanent war on terror." Perhaps, if a hue and cry is raised, the war on our civil liberties isn't so permanent after all.

A hue and cry is necessary is shine a spotlight on these attacks on civil liberty. As a people, we need to be made aware of how easily we can choose to give up our rights and how difficult it can be to get them back.

But we also need to re-articulate why civil liberties are one of the most basic concepts that established this country. I very much appreciate the work of the ALA on this regard. But I would love to see magazines and journals devote significant thinking to an intellectual re-definition of civil liberties in this century.

Too many people identify civil liberty as a chapter in a boring Civics class in high school. We don't appreciate the remarkable gift our forebears have given us.

In solidarity,
The Incredible Hult
Yep. As Edmund Burke put it, "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good [people] to do nothing."
This is a positive first step but only a first step. While section 215 is popularly known as the "libraries provision", it also applies to medical records, banks, gun shops, etc., none of which are covered in this House bill, aka The Freedom to Read Act.

There's a lot more work to be done:

Oh, and the count of community resolutions is nearing 400, including 4 or 5 states.
Dude... Even the liberal WaPo editorial board disagrees with you on ending the library/bookstore portion of the PATRIOT Act. Needless to say, I disagree with you on this as well.

"the draconian law's least popular aspect"

Were do you find *any* substantiation of that claim?

"that the government no longer consider the list of who checked out what to be private"

Of course it's still private! Just like a phone call is private. Just like your mail is private. Just like what you say in your house is private. It's all totally private, *unless* a judge rules that there is probably cause that you are engaging in a crime. Then it's not private. Then the government can look at your library records, can tap your phone, can intercept your mail, can bug your house. The world would be a scarier place if the government couldn't do that stuff to suspected crimnals. (and trust me, all those liberal judges that are soft on crimnals are very intractable about giving permission to do those things) It's lunacy to argue against it!
"probably cause" should be "probable cause"
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