Isle librarians urged to
protect readers’ privacy
HILO >> When FBI agents arrive at a library with a search warrant, librarians should have policies in place that protect readers' privacy, Judith Krug of the American Library Association advised Hawaii librarians.
The 342-page USA Patriot Act lets the FBI see information on library patrons, bookstore purchases and newspaper reporters' notes, Krug said.
In separate comments, Vanessa Chong, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Patriot Act also allows the FBI to look at people's medical and bank records without telling them.
The group is concerned because intellectual freedom is a "core value" of the American library profession, Krug said. "It's nobody's business what you read in the library."
Krug spoke to the Hawaii Library Association in Honolulu on Saturday and in Hilo on Monday.
The Patriot Act was passed by Congress without hearings after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It contains provisions Congress had rejected for years because of civil liberties concerns, Krug said.
For example, a normal search warrant requires a local judge to find "probable cause" for a search.
Under the Patriot Act, a judge in Washington, D.C., ruling on any location in the country, only has to decide that a search "might have relevance" to an investigation, Krug said.
A gag order accompanies the warrant and could keep a a librarian from telling anyone else about the search unless there is a policy that allows the librarian to notify her boss, Krug said.
Without a policy, "according to the gag order, I would not be able to tell my boss what type of situation I'm in," said University of Hawaii at Hilo librarian Linda Golian-Lui.
To protect privacy, the library association has told libraries for 35 years to get rid of the name of a book borrower when a book is returned, Krug said.
Chong said parts of the act have "sunset" provisions that end them in 2005, but some members of Congress want to make them permanent.
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Hawaii is first state
to seek repeal of
parts of Patriot Act
Hawaii has become the first state to call for repeal of portions of the USA Patriot Act, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said yesterday.
"The broad and overreaching (act) contains many provisions that erode checks and balances on law enforcement and threaten personal privacy and civil liberties," said ACLU Executive Director Vanessa Chong.
In a 35-12 vote, the state House passed a resolution regarding the act Friday, the ACLU said. The Senate passed the resolution 21-3 earlier.
The resolution says: "The residents of Hawaii during World War II experienced firsthand the dangers of unbalanced pursuit of security without appropriate checks and balances for the protection of basic liberties."
Although Hawaii is the first state to act, 93 communities in 23 other states have passed resolutions calling for limits on the law, the ACLU noted.