Big Brother

Librarians take great care to protect the privacy of patrons, and to promote the freedom to read and view materials in an unrestricted manner. Generally, we despise censorship, and encourage citizens to fully exercise the rights granted them under the First Amendment. However, six years ago, the USA Patriot Act was passed and protecting patron’s privacy became more difficult. The 800+ page Patriot Act was haphazardly drafted and approved in only a few weeks after the 9/11 bombings. The Act is essentially an approved wish list from Federal law enforcement agencies to more easily circumvent the Constitution. Indeed, the implications of the modifications to existing laws that the Act amends are still not fully realized.

Recently, there have been numerous articles discussing the FBI’s abuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) as well as the USA Patriot Act and how it negatively impacts our way of life. Section 215 of the Patriot Act grants the FBI, and NSA enormous power to spy on citizens without warrants. It also makes it illegal for anyone served with a NSL to disclose that they were served to anyone else… Recipients are gagged forever. Overall, almost 150,000 NSLs have been issued. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft insisted that NSLs weren’t being abused, and that no libraries were served. We now know this to be a lie.

Last night, I watched a PBS special entitled, Security vs. Liberty: The Other War in which the only people who can legally speak of being served a NSL discussed what it was like. These four people are librarians from Connecticut who sued the Federal Government to keep their patron records confidential. These librarians are like rock stars in the library community for the courage they showed in challenging the NSL and for protecting a basic tenet of our profession, privacy. Due to their efforts, the Patriot Act was rewritten and parts were clarified. Before this, it was uncertain if someone issued, and gagged by a NSL could even seek counsel. This is a good start, however, most of the other parts of the Act were only made more restrictive. A condescending scrap thrown to the library community during the revision states that libraries are now exempt from NSLs… IF they don’t have electronic resources! I’m sure the eight libraries left in American that don’t use electronic resources are very happy about this.

Our basic civil liberties are hanging by a thread. Why are we so willing to forsake the very things that make us great for what amounts to negligible advances in security? This isn’t really America anymore if we sacrifice the basic principles that make us who we are. We have fundamentally changed, and not for the better allowing terrorists to dictate the shape of our society. I know of no words that better illustrate the sad state of affairs in contemporary America than those of Benjamin Franklin who said, “Those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.”

Our Government, spying on its own citizens through these twisted means, will not stop another terrorist attack. It might delay it, but won’t stop the inevitability. Sadly, when this happens again, I fear what’s left of the Bill of Rights will be desecrated for the mere hope of more security… I’m sure the FBI, and NSA will enthusiastically oblige. As Franklin pointed out, ultimately we will get exactly what we ask for.

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~ by Woeful on April 21, 2007.

10 Responses to “Big Brother”

  1. The Lefties over @ PBS really have you eating out of the palm of there hand! What next? Are you going to start watching free speech TV?

  2. Lefties? I’m advocating for the sanctity of the Bill of Rights… Something I’m sure the gun toting right-wing conservatives will also be thankful for. I think the Second Amendment is also a very important piece of the American puzzle. What disturbs me is our willingness to abdicate what are our rights as Americans. And don’t even get me started on what has happened to habeas corpus. We’re headed down a dark path…

  3. This is a very important topic. I am sure it will impact our way of life. People want to debate the right to bear arms. The fact is you decide if you will or will not buy a gun. Yes, you can’t decide that for your neighbor. The power and control or the government will matter to your life and you may or may not be aware of it. I hope some people speak up before we wake up and find out it’s too late. I don’t see this as a left or right issue. It’s the founddation of America.

  4. The first comment is a stark reminder of why we are in our current predicament. There are too many people in this country, who, either out of religious zeal or plain ignorance, place no value whatsoever in the values and principles laid out in our constitution. They think individual liberty is a “leftist” issue simply because the politicians who are stripping them of their freedoms claim to be republicans! Sadly, these people will continue to support their beloved authorities well after they are chained up and toiling away with an oar in their hands and a lash at their back. It falls to those of us who have the capability to question what we are told and think independently to stand up to them and even to attempt to teach them to think for themselves.

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Nate! It really is a sad situation in many ways, I recently saw a story over at Reddit that states that a substantial percentage of Americans believe Iraq was responsible for 9/11. Need I wrote more?

  6. I am very happy to see there are still Americans like you. Looking at what’s happening from England it saddens me a great deal that liberties in the land of the free are being rolled back in such despicable ways. ‘A country that is willing to give up a little liberty for a little security will lose both and deserve neither’ I am sure you know who said that.

  7. Thanks for stopping by Martin. These are dark times, but I have high hopes for the future…

  8. “Why are we so willing to forsake the very things that make us great for what amounts to negligible advances in security?”

    The only way for me to NOT forsake my rights that the government is stealing would get me labeled a terrorist. I would lose ALL of my freedoms trying to fight to keep them. We (the American people) no longer have the power to change anything and it’s illegal to fight back. It’s time for the rest of the world to help the American people fight their corrupt government.
    Love my country, fear my government. That’s a sad state of affairs.

  9. Sad indeed.

  10. Wow. And it goes on. We are just nearing the mock election and it has settled in as the status quo. Very sad. Once a great republic of united states of free men and now tyranny. Sure, ’twas ever thus, but the people who fought and died in WWII must be spinning in their graves to see an even worse regime spring up at home. Yuck.

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