Friday, July 5, 2002
1. PATRIOT ACT: IS THE FBI'S "LIBRARY
AWARENESS PROGRAM" BACK?
Just six weeks after 9/11, and after almost no debate, Congress passed
the Patriot Act. One provision gave the FBI authority to obtain library
circulation records. We went through that during the cold war, when FBI
agents, under what became known as the "library awareness program," tried
to recruit university science librarians to act as snitches, reporting
on the reading habits of "suspicious" people (WN
3 Jun 88). The program was terminated in the face of protests from
science organizations, the American Library Association and Congress.
In 37 states, your reading habits are protected information, but the federal
Patriot Act overrides these state laws. Before the Patriot Act passed,
WN cautioned against trading freedom for security (WN
12 Oct 01). An ALA statement is being prepared that will oppose those
parts of the Patriot Act that interfere with the right to read.
2. CHILDREN'S INTERNET PROTECTION ACT:
THE LIBRARIANS WIN ONE.
On 31 May, a three-judge panel in Pennsylvania ruled that CIPA is unconstitutional.
As a result, libraries are not required to install filtering software
on their computers to be eligible for federal funds. The Children's Internet
Protection Act is, of course, a misnomer. It would censor everyone, not
just children. There are, in any case, less restrictive alternatives already
in use to protect children from inappropriate material. The ALA, which
has incurred legal costs of $1.3M in its challenge, fully expects the
decision to be appealed, and is currently soliciting contributions from
its members to a CIPA Legal Fund.
3. WHICH ALMIGHTY? PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
While we're on the subject of First Amendment guarantees, the government
argued that "under God," added to the pledge by Congress in 1954, had
minimal religious content. But President Eisenhower, who signed the legislation,
wrote "it will daily proclaim the dedication of our nation and our people
to the Almighty." That led a federal appeals court to rule that the pledge
violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
4. FIRST STRIKE: ISOLATED FROM THE
COURT OF WORLD OPINION.
On Tuesday, President Bush repudiated the newly established International
Criminal Court to protect U.S. sovereignty. Other countries protecting
their sovereignty from the court are Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, Iraq
and North Korea. Our sovereignty seems to be in good shape; other international
agreements we've pulled out of include the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,
the Land Mine Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Bioweapons
Protocol, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, and the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Now that's sovereignty.
(Christy Fernandez assisted with this week's What's New.)