March 11, 2003
Santa Cruz Libraries Post Warning

...that the FBI may be spying on the Library's book check-out and computer systems. "Questions about this policy," patrons are told, "should be directed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20530."

Rep. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., has introduced the Freedom to Read Protection Act that would repeal the library and bookstore provisions of the Patriot Act. Apparently, a letter written by Assistant Attorney General Daniel Bryant to Senator Patrick Leahey saying "Americans who borrow or buy books surrender their right of privacy," has brought about quite a bit of support for this bill. Librarians, under a gag order to keep them from revealing when they have been served with a warrant, said in a recent survey (almost 60 percent of the 906 respondents) that they believed it was unconstitutional. One librarian is simply stating regularly when there are no warrants, so that when there is no statement of anything, people will know there is a warrant that has been served. Huh? Does this feel odd to you? Reminds me of when the State of California required public school teachers to sign a loyalty oath to the state, and the only people who signed were the ones they were actually concerned about, because they wanted to stay under the radar. Do we really want public policy that creates situations like this?

Julie Cohen, at the DRM Conf two weeks ago, talked about her "right to read anonymously" (pdf) ideas. Eight years later, this is more true than ever: "the new information age is turning out to be as much an age of information about readers as an age of information for readers." And yet her idea that "reading is so intimately connected with speech and freedom of thought that the First Amendment should be understood to guarantee such a right" seems further and further from the understanding our government implements in its policies.

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 11, 2003 11:19 PM

I agree; free speech without the right to freely choose what to listen to isn't free speech. If you really analyse it, it's just impossible to have one without the other.

Posted by: Jeremy Bowers on November 26, 2003 08:11 AM
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