Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
NJCubScouter

The "Patriot Act" and the freedom to read

Recommended Posts

After a few years' absence, I have recently resumed visiting my local public library, not just to bring my children, but to use it myself. So, what I am about to write about has probably been the case for well over a year, but I never saw it until a week or 2 ago.

 

Right now I am sitting at one of the public Internet access terminals in the library, and using some of my free 60 minutes to do this, instead of what I intended when I sat down. Because, I have noticed that over each of the terminals is a sign that says:

 

"FOR YOUR INFORMATION

 

Although the ___ Library System makes every effort to protect your privacy, under the revised standards of the federal USA PATRIOT ACT (Public Law 107-56) records of books and other materials that you borrow or information that you view on computers at this library may be obained by federal agrents who show proper legal authorization. The federal law prohibits library employees from informing you if federal agents have obtained library records about you."

 

I assume other public libraries have this or something similar.

 

I was just wondering, does this bother anybody? I am sure that there are some standards for "federal agents" to otbain "proper legal authorization" before getting the records of what I read, or the log from the software that is probably recording every keystroke that I am making right now -- but you wouldn't know that from the little sign. Nor would you know, and nor do I know, what those standards happen to be. It certainly gives me no assurance that the "federal agents" need to have any specific information that I am planning to commit a crime, before snooping into what I read or what I look at, at the library. Nor does it give me any assurance as to where this information might go, and how it might be used, once "proper legal authorization" has been obtained.

 

And just contemplate the possible implications of that. What if I were interested in reading about psychology, and I were browsing through the stacks and found a book about pedophilia. Maybe I want to learn more about this condition and the terrible acts of those who have it. Do I check it out? Or do I consider what it "looks like"? And what it looks like could be different things. On one hand I am a library visitor who has checked out a book about a psychological condition and crime. On the other hand I am an elected member of my local school board and a registered leader in a Boy Scout troop, checking about a book about people having sex with children. How would it "look"?

 

Do we really have all the "freedom" that we should have anymore? And if not, if we have sacrificed some of our freedom in hopes of being "safer", do we really realize what we have given up? Remember what Benjamin Franklin said about those who give up their liberty for some temporary security. Or is that "pre-9/11 thinking"? Have we reached the era where whatever the government says it needs to do to protect us is ok?

 

Perhaps I am making too much about a sign at a library, but I think there is something here that we need to be concerned about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What most people fail to realize is they(government) always could get this info, just now they can'ttell you that the government asked for it. Everything you say and do in this age of computer is accessable to someone. If they want to know they will find out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read that many libraries have started deleting or destroying logs of who used the computers.

 

As for "proper legal authorization," I'm sure that if an FBI agent just shows his badge to a librarian, he'll be tripping over his feet to help that agent.

 

"On the other hand I am an elected member of my local school board and a registered leader in a Boy Scout troop, checking about a book about people having sex with children."

 

Didn't a member of the Who go through hell for a similar action not too long ago?

 

"Have we reached the era where whatever the government says it needs to do to protect us is ok?"

 

Sadly, most of the country seems to think that it is okay. After all, if you haven't done any thing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

NJ:

 

There is something you need to be concerned about. The same people who use throwaway cell phones to mask their activities use library computers to communicate with each other, again in an attempt to mask their activities. Right out of the AQ tactics manual.

 

Here's an example of how they do it, open source: Person "A" establishes a web-based e-mail account, doesn't matter with which service, there's many. Person "A" shares his username and password with everyone else he wants to communicate with. Person "A" goes to a library, or Internet cafe, or kiosk, creates a message, either in plain text or encoded using a simple cipher. Person "A" doesn't transmit the message to anyone, but saves it as a draft, then logs off. Person "B", in some other location, uses the now-common username and password to access the e-mail account, reads the draft message, then deletes or continues to save it as a draft. The message hasn't been sent, hasn't been delivered to another mailbox, and resides only on the mail server. The best, perhaps the only "bread crumb" to link these two miscreants together is to track the IP addresses of the computers from which the message was drafted, and accessed, then try to find out who used them. Obviously, it's not in our interests for the subject to know they've attracted the attention of the authorities. That's why the "no disclosure" rule is there.

 

Don't bother looking just for middle eastern males planning terrorist acts to be doing this; it's a commonly used method of communications by a variety of fringe groups who don't want to be traced or identified; environmental terrorists, various supremacist groups, and yes, sex offenders.

 

Anyone interested in learning about prisons from a sociological standpoint can get a brief tour; preferable to committing a crime and getting a long tour. Likewise, anyone interested in learning more about any form of child abuse can get a policeman or prosecutor to come to a committee meeting or Roundtable; preferable to possessing the material.

 

Concerns about the Patriot Act? Read it; then contact your Congressman with the specific section(s) you're concerned about -- they voted for it and can amend it.

 

Before anyone goes off the deep end, please remember that the authorities don't have the resources to go to every public library computer and "data mine" -- it's only going to happen on a lead of some sort.

 

KS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just can't seem to work myself up to shock that government agencies can examine records of public library use. I always assumed that they were public records that could be easily accessed by even local law enforcement. Perhaps I just assumed that my transactions with such public facilities were a matter of public record. All it takes is a nod from one of myriad black robe wearers to authorize the local law enforcement agency to search your entire home. Don't suddenly feel violated that the federal government has the ability to visit your local library and type your name in the database. Any seventeen year old library employee can do that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two words: probable cause.

 

Back when I was young, had long hair, alot of free time and still knew everything, I spent a rather interesting hour-and-a-half on the side of the highway debating that concept with a police officer who couldn't understand why anyone with "nothing to hide" wouldn't agree to a friendly little look-see through his car trunk. After attracting the attention of three or four other officers, a supervisor showed up who decided being a smart-ass wasn't illegal and sent me on my way.

 

If the government can establish probable cause before an independent judge for a proper search, they can look for anything they wish, even secretly if the situation warrants. But the Patriot Act short circuits the checks and balances of the Fourth Amendment by declaring whole classes of information to be fair game for warrantless searches. Notice that the sign in NJ's library doesn't say info may be obtained by agents presenting valid search warrants, but by those with "proper legal authorization." There is a huge difference.

 

As to the government not having the resources to track data on everyone at this minute level, don't count on it. Take a look at the Google ads to the right of this page. Right now there are four pop-ups advertising either database searches for. The Total Information Awareness project, that John Poindexter was run out of town (again!) over is alive and well in the private sector. After the government caught so much flack over the project, they simply privatized it. ChoicePoint (yes, the same ChoicePoint that does criminal background checks for BSA) for all intent and purpose is well on the way to building the TIA system Poindexter wanted. They are doing it by buying up smaller companies that already have small consumer databases tracking everything from criminal records to real estate purchases to the brand of softdrink you like -- all with relatively little oversight or regulation. The government simply buys the information they want. ChoicePoint currently has contracts with the feds worth over $100 million to provide this info to various federal agencies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"There is something you need to be concerned about. The same people who use throwaway cell phones to mask their activities use library computers to communicate with each other, again in an attempt to mask their activities. Right out of the AQ tactics manual."

 

Sounds like the excuses that are always used by despots.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Any member of the local judiciary with "proper authorization" may create a search warrant on the spot. It's only a phantom difference. Would you rather the federal agencies need a "search warrant" to force library employees to turn the screen around at the counter? Whom do you think is being unjustly "looked into" here? Exactly how is it more invasive than giving an account of how all your income was dispersed throughout the year? If you have no problem publicly carrying a book to the library counter and checking it out, why is it so bloody embarassing to have it come up on a screen? If that's the biggest governmental bogey man you can come up with, then I must say that the anonymous men in black suits aren't doing their job very well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Federal agents looking over our shoulders bothers me too. It's part of the price we pay for have terrorists targeting our country, which is the price we pay for people in other countries hating Americans, which is the price we pay for meddling in the affairs of other countries.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

" which is the price we pay for meddling in the affairs of other countries."

 

The people of other countries have hated us for much longer than we have been meddling. They don't like us because we have more freedoms, more money, and more stuff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Would this Choicepoint be the same company that was in the middle of the Florida Election fiasco? Hopefully they handle the BSA criminal check in a more professional manner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is Canada a terrorist target? Do people in other countries hate Canadians? I wonder why not? . . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Adrian says:

 

Whom do you think is being unjustly "looked into" here?

 

I don't have any idea. That's part of my concern. It could be anybody, and it could be nobody, and the answer could be different next week than it is this week.

 

If you have no problem publicly carrying a book to the library counter and checking it out, why is it so bloody embarassing to have it come up on a screen?

 

You do have a point there, but I think there is a difference. I am pretty sure the typical high school or college kid working the circulation desk does not care what I am checking out, and has no interest in telling anyone. I cannot say the same for unknown, unseen, unheard "agents." I have no idea how far, and to who, their interest may extend.

 

If that's the biggest governmental bogey man you can come up with, then I must say that the anonymous men in black suits aren't doing their job very well.

 

Of course, I reject the term "bogey man" because of its implication that I have nothing to be concerned about. And no, it isn't the biggest concern I have in the general field of government intrusions on individual rights. It is just the one that occurred to me when I read the sign about it, while I happened to be logging into the Internet, which prompted me to write about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...