Vanishing Liberties

Where's the Press?

Librarians—and bookstore owners—are also forbidden by this section of the law from telling the press of these visits by the FBI to inform John Ashcroft of what people on the list of suspects are reading.

I've checked with the American Library Association and am told that very few other libraries are warning their patrons to be cautious about which books they ask for. Shouldn't the press spread the news of this risk more widely?

And I've seen little in the media about a bill, "The Freedom to Read Protection Act of 2003," introduced in the House by Bernie Sanders (Independent, Vermont) that prevents the government from "searching for, or seizing from, a bookseller or library . . . materials that contain personally identifiable information concerning a patron of a bookseller or library." Under the bill, a higher standard than mere FBI suspicion will be required.

How many of you know the answer Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Bryant sent Democratic senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont about our expectation of privacy in bookstores and libraries?

"Any [such] right of privacy," says the Justice Department, "is necessarily and inherently limited since . . . the patron is reposing that information in the library or bookstore and assumes the risk that the entity may disclose it to another."

Have you ever assumed that the librarian or bookstore owner has a right to bypass your First Amendment right to read what you choose by telling "another" (the FBI) whether you read, for example, the Voice? Senator Leahy's office made that Justice Department letter available to the press. Have you seen it before now?

Related Article:
"Ashcroft's New Ally: Senator Schumer Pushes to Make Covert Surveillance Easier" by Chisun Lee

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