“With mass collection of private data, whether library records or cellphone activity, the decision on privacy has been taken away from the individual. The potential harm comes from not knowing what has been collected or how it will be used.” Great quote from Kirsten Clark, our own Regional FDLP Librarian at the University of Minnesota. This is welcome movement to curb NSA’s constitutional abuses. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) (who originally introduced the [[Patriot_Act|USA PATRIOT Act]]) has introduced H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act — whose unwieldy full title is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act.” On board are Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as groups as diverse as the National Rifle Association (NRA), civil liberties groups such as the ACLU and the American Library Association. Let’s hope this broad support from Congress and civil rights groups bodes well for passage.
And for those of you who’d like to participate in this critical constitutional rights issue, there’s a new group for librarians and library staff recently created called the RadRef Anti-Surveillance Action Group. Contact the owner if you’d like to be added to the list.
The Minnesota Library Association, working with its national chapter in Washington, is backing House legislation from Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner that would restrict NSA bulk data sweeps and lift the gag order that forces librarians and other potential targets to be quiet about the requests they receive.
The post 9/11 Patriot Act not only opened library computer logs and book borrowing records to federal agents, it also barred librarians from even acknowledging or talking about government data requests. The upshot is there is no way for the public to know if the NSA or the FBI have tapped such data in Minnesota.
To Clark, that uncertainty is contrary to the spirit of intellectual freedom and research, particularly in an educational setting: “It is the chilling effect that comes from citizens knowing their information-seeking habits might be monitored, which in turn has the potential to limit learning and the freedom to read,” said Clark, regional depository librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries, where she also serves as interim director of the social sciences and professional programs.
Sensenbrenner’s USA Freedom Act would address librarians’ concerns by raising the legal standards used to justify dragnet-style collection of business records, including library logs and — not incidentally — gun registries and other types of commercial data.
That’s why Sensenbrenner’s bill has won the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA) as well as civil liberties groups such as the ACLU and the American Library Association.