Friday, June 17, 2005
In times of grave national threats, we are asked to trade freedom
for security. It is, however, difficult to restore freedom once
the crisis passes. The Patriot Act gives the FBI authority to
examine all library circulation records. All the FBI needs is an
order from a secret court. What happened to the Fourth Amendment?
Libraries are even forbidden from informing patrons that their
reading habits are being monitored. Libraries now get rid of
circulation records as soon as possible. President Bush
threatened to veto any measure that would weaken his powers under
the Patriot Act. Nevertheless, the House voted 238-187 to limit
the FBI's authority to monitor our reading. It's basically the
Freedom to Read Protection Act introduced two years ago by Bernie
Sanders (I-VT), (WN 11 Apr 03). Bush
was already pressuring Congress to renew the 15 provisions of the
Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of 2005.
While the House was voting to put limits on the Patriot Act, the
Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill to give the FBI
expanded powers to subpoena records without the approval of a
judge or grand jury in terrorism investigations.
Last month, USA Today printed a story by a library director in
Washington state. An FBI agent stopped by a branch library to
request a list of people who had borrowed a biography of Osama
bin Laden. It seems that a patron had found a handwritten note
in the margin that sounded like a terrorist had written it. One
had. The library consulted Google and found it to be an Osama
bin Laden quote. That didn't stop the FBI, which subpoenaed a
list of everyone who had borrowed the book since November 2001.
Would anyone have checked out bin Laden's biography if they knew
it would get them on an FBI list? That's not a democracy. The
library flatly refused. Fifteen days later the FBI backed off.
It's only fair. The Zoo had other god exhibits. According to
CNN the elephant exhibit had a statue of the Hindu god, Ganesh.
It's not, Dorothy, it's Holland. According to Science magazine,
Maria van der Hoeven, the science and education minister, wants
to stimulate a debate about intelligent design. It certainly
stimulated a discussion, but not exactly a debate. They do love
the idea in Kansas, but in the Netherlands things are a little
different. Van der Hoeven, a member of the Christian-Democratic
Party and a Catholic, got no support from either one. She's been
too busy defending herself to explain just what she has in mind.