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January 27, 2004

Section of Patriot Act Ruled Invalid


And it happened right here in the Golden State: "In Los Angeles, the judge, Audrey B. Collins of Federal District Court, said in a decision made public on Monday that a provision in the law banning certain types of support for terrorist groups was so vague that it risked running afoul of the First Amendment."

Registration required--but you should be reading the NY Times anyway. I now get it through my RSS reader.

Disagreeing with Jessamyn that this isn't a "library" part of the Patriot Act; it is part of the Act designed to produce a chilling effect, and that affects the search for information, and that's about us.

Posted by kgs at January 27, 2004 07:51 AM

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The Justice Department's investigation of possible civil rights and civil liberties abuses under the Patriot Act was just released.

According to an AP story that has just come out (1/27), the investigation found "no civil rights or civil liberties abuses specifically related to the Patriot Act, which allows more phone taps, expanded search powers and other surveillance techniques."

Don't you think people are going to start to wonder what the librarians are yelling about?

Posted by: Jack Stephens at January 27, 2004 12:06 PM

sorry -- what I meant was that it wasn't Section 215 that was being directly discussed. Did you just say the Justice Deprtment issued a report saying that it isn't breaking or abusing the law? How not surprising.

Posted by: jessamyn at January 27, 2004 12:33 PM

Yes, I understand the point about section 215, and I agree with what I understand to have been your point that ability to advise a terrorist organization has nothing to do with libraries.

The report that was just released was required by Congress, according to the news piece, and conducted by the DOJ inspector general. I'm not surprised that you're not surprised by the findings, only please notice that the focus of your criticism must now shift from the figure of John Ashcroft, or the Patriot Act itself, to the Justice Department as a whole, and to the Congress that will surely accept this report.

Posted by: Jack Stephens at January 27, 2004 01:00 PM

Oh, and I *so* believe the Justice Department!

Posted by: K.G. Schneider at January 27, 2004 05:43 PM

Jack, I hate to break it to you, but the government has only _recently_ said that they haven't used 215. When they thought they would get caught by Leigh Estabrook's survey, they were being minimally honest, and at least reporting that they had requested records for 50ish libraries. That number is very close to the number that Leigh came up with through the survey. So they were merely repeating the minimum necessary. After seeing that no one was citing Leigh's survey, they changed their tune to 215 has never been used. Which is disturbing, because if it really hasn't been invoked, that means that their getting records by SAYING it has, when it hasn't...



Posted by: Brooke Helman at January 28, 2004 03:34 AM

Brooke, I'm at a loss as to how this point affects--let alone contradicts, as you seem to imply--the finding by DOJ that there have been no abuses of civil liberties or civil rights under Patriot. Unless you mean to argue that for the FBI to seek to obtain records from a library is itself an abuse of civil liberties.

I'm aware that some on the library left would agree with this contention, which is really sad. Again, the SAFE Act seeks to restrict, but not eliminate access by law enforcement to library records.

I'm also curious how you know what "the government thought," or "their" psychological reasons for "changing their tune." The answer, of course, is that you don't.

As I've said, foes of the Patriot Act are now forced to castigate the Justice Department as a whole. As a result, you run the risk of sounding just plain paranoid.

Posted by: Jack Stephens at January 28, 2004 08:48 AM