From: Dan Clore
Subject: FBI Starts Spying on Libraries
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2002 21:14:55 -0700
Organization: The Soylent Green Party
News for Anarchists & Activists:
[This is truly disturbing. Given the FBI's propensity to
portray any sort of dissident or activist, particularly
anarchists, as "terrorists", can anyone really believe that
this will not spill over into yet more COINTELPRO-style
FBI Begins Visiting Libraries
By Christopher Newton
Associated Press Writer
Monday, June 24, 2002; 5:38 PM
WASHINGTON –– The FBI is visiting libraries nationwide and
checking the reading records of people it suspects of having
ties to terrorists or plotting an attack, library officials
The FBI effort, authorized by the antiterrorism law enacted
after the Sept. 11 attacks, is the first broad government
check of library records since the 1970s when prosecutors
reined in the practice for fear of abuses.
The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment Monday,
except to note that such searches are now legal under the
Patriot Act that President Bush signed last October.
Libraries across the nation were reluctant to discuss their
dealings with the FBI. The same law that makes the searches
legal also makes it a criminal offense for librarians to
reveal the details or extent.
"Patron information is sacrosanct here. It's nobody's
business what you read," said Kari Hanson, director of the
Bridgeview Public Library in suburban Chicago.
Hanson said an FBI agent came seeking information about a
person, but her library had no record of the person. Federal
prosecutors allege Global Relief Foundation, an Islamic
charity based in the Chicago suburb, has ties to Osama bin
Laden's terror network.
The University of Illinois conducted a survey of 1,020
public libraries in January and February and found that 85
libraries had been asked by federal or local law enforcement
officers for information about patrons related to Sept. 11,
said Ed Lakner, assistant director of research at the
school's Library Research Center.
The libraries that reported FBI contacts were nearly all in
large urban areas.
In Florida, Broward County library director Sam Morrison
said the FBI had recently contacted his office. He declined
to elaborate on the request or how many branch libraries
"We've heard from them and that's all I can tell you,"
Morrison said. He said the FBI specifically instructed him
not to reveal any information about the request.
The library system has been contacted before. A week after
the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI subpoenaed Morrison to provide
information on the possible use of computer terminals by
some of the suspected hijackers in the Hollywood, Fla.,
In October, investigators revisited the county's main
library in Fort Lauderdale and also checked a regional
library in Coral Springs.
At least 15 of the 19 hijackers had Florida connections.
The process by which the FBI gains access to library records
is quick and mostly secret under the Patriot Act.
First, the FBI must obtain a search warrant from a court
that meets in secret to hear the agency's case. The FBI must
show it has reason to suspect that a person is involved with
a terrorist or a terrorist plot – far less difficult than
meeting the tougher legal standards of probable cause,
required for traditional search warrants or reasonable
doubt, required for convictions.
With the warrant, FBI investigators can visit a library and
gain immediate access to the records.
Judith Krug, the American Library Association's director for
intellectual freedom, said the FBI was treading on the
rights it is supposed to be upholding.
"It's unfortunate because these records and this information
can be had with so little reason or explanation," Krug said.
"It's super secret and anyone who wants to talk about what
the FBI did at their library faces prosecution. That has
nothing to do with patriotism."
Krug tells worried librarians who call that they should keep
only the records they need and should discard records that
would reveal which patron checked out a book and for how
She is frustrated by the hate mail she says she receives
when she speaks out against the Patriot Act.
"People are scared and they think that by giving up their
rights, especially their right to privacy, they will be
safe," Krug said. "But it wasn't the right to privacy that
let terrorists into our nation. It had nothing to do with
libraries or library records."
Some libraries said they will still resist government
efforts to obtain records.
Pat McCandless, assistant director for public services for
Ohio State University's libraries, said, "State law and
professional ethics say we do not convey patron information
and that is still our stance.
"To the best of our ability, we would try to support patron
confidentiality," she said.
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News for Anarchists & Activists:
I've watched the dogs of war enjoying their feast
I've seen the western world go down in the east
The food of love became the greed of our time
But now we're living on the profits of crime
--Black Sabbath, "Hole in the Sky"