Saturday, May 9, 2015

Librarians Strike Back vs. the Evil NSA Empire

Well, The Nation's headline isn't as dramatic, but it does summon up the nature of the battle. Defying time, the May 25th issue is already out, and Zoe Carpenter reports on ""Librarians vs. NSA". My friend and anti-censorship activist Carrie McIntyre posted this on FB, so I was pleased to see it as the cover story. The admissions of Edward Snowden, so well if teasingly documented in Citizenfour, continue to embarrass and confront our government. Whether Bush's GOP or Obama's Dems, the post-9/11 security state is rotten. I champion those brave enough to expose its suppression and to unveil its surveillance. After Snowden and Chelsea Manning, the ability of sympathizers to uncover abuse will surely have been curtailed, but at least we have these insiders who alerted us to the evil, imposed in the name of safety.

I've wondered in my public library if patrons are safe online or in what they check out. Carpenter reports: "Under the Patriot Act, the government can demand library records via a secret court order and without probable cause that the information is related to a suspected terrorist plot. It can also block the librarian from revealing that request to anyone. Nor does the term 'records' cover only the books you check out; it also includes search histories and hard drives from library computers." I know working for an educational institution that our privacy code does not cover any federal investigation. Our government has total power over what it can demand from any of us.

So, what hope do we have for privacy, against unlawful searches and seizures, and for the 1st Amendment? After 9/11, allegations that plotters used public libraries to plan led to a crackdown. The Patriot Act followed suit. "Section 215 allows the FBI to request “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, without having to show probable cause that the 'thing' is actually connected to a terrorism suspect. The provision applied to library circulation records, patron lists, Internet records, and hard drives, and it prohibited any library worker who received such a request from discussing it with anyone." Carpenter reports on what mirrors what I've been told in my institution.

No comments: