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Posts Tagged ‘2009’

Feinstein, Judiciary Say We Deserve Even Fewer Rights

In intellectual freedom, privacy, public policy, Uncategorized on October 9, 2009 at 5:23 am

Unfortunate news. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary voted to extend expiring PATRIOT Act sections for another four years. The vote was 11-8 with California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein, as expected, among the majority in favor of prolonging the FBI’s expanded powers. I have it on good authority that Feinstein does not want to be “hounded by librarians.” This is second-hand, but let’s consider that a compliment!

The issue is now on to the Senate floor, making public and organizational pressure even more important. Let’s increase the hounding!

Judiciary Panel Approves Patriot Act Sections

New York Times, The Caucus, by Charlie Savage

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved legislation to reauthorize three sections of the so-called Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year, after largely rejecting a series of proposed changes to surveillance laws sought by civil liberties and privacy advocates.

By a vote of 11 to 8, the committee sent the legislation on to the Senate floor. The bill would extend provisions that expanded the power of the F.B.I. to seize records and to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mails in the course of counterterrorism investigations. [continue reading]

Obama Sides with Republicans; PATRIOT Act Renewal Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee Minus Critical Civil Liberties Reforms

Electronic Frontier Foundation, Deeplinks

…the Committee this morning voted to accept seven Republican amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act to remove the few civil liberties protections left in the bill after it was already watered down at last Thursday’s Committee meeting. Surprisingly and disappointingly, most of those amendments were recommended to their Republican sponsors by the Obama Administration. [read full article]

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The PATRIOT Act in 2009: A Resource Guide

In privacy, public policy, subject guides, Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 at 11:35 am

Since the passage of the original PATRIOT Act in 2001 and its revision in 2006, much national debate has centered on the legislation’s threat to privacy, intellectual freedom, and implicit sanction of pervasive racial profiling. As important sections of the PATRIOT Act are scheduled to sunset in December 2009, there is renewed opportunity to challenge unjust government spying on our communities. This guide offers resources to help civic and community leaders find both background and up-to-date information on the reauthorization debate.

What’s included in the guide:

HISTORY & BACKGROUND

  • The PATRIOT Act Itself
  • Treatises on the Law
  • Helpful Articles
  • Oversight & Watchdog Reports
  • Prior Cases

STAYING CURRENT

  • Pending Bills to Reform
  • Outstanding Cases
  • Useful Websites for Staying Current

Download the 2009 Patriot Act Resource Guide (PDF)
Last updated September 18, 2009 by A. Sonnie

Expanding the Definition of ‘Justice’ in the PATRIOT Act Debates

In community organizing, intellectual freedom, library profession, media justice, public policy, racial justice, Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act. In the coming months the national debate about the PATRIOT Act will heat up once again. Three controversial sections of the Act are scheduled to sunset December 31, 2009. These are Sections 215 and 206 along with the “lone wolf” provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (Sec. 6001). The reauthorization process also presents new opportunities to address FBI rampant use of National Security Letters.*

Rep. Lamar Smith (TX) has already proposed legislation (HR 1467, Safe and Secure America Act) to extend certain sections, as they are currently written, with no reauthorization period for 10 years. Just last Thursday, Sens. Russ Feingold (WI) and Richard Durbin (IL) announced the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act proposing new reforms to both the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act. Yet, still, the Obama Administration supports reauthorizing the Act without any added safeguards.

In 2009, the whole of the progressive community must take coordinated action to reverse the PATRIOT Act and reinvigorate public conversation. The debate is currently framed by those who favor extending these controversial sections versus those who seek greater judicial and congressional oversight and more narrowly tailored spying. Given this context, progressive activists and librarians may decide to support civil liberties advocates, such as the ACLU and the American Library Association, in achieving the safeguards proposed by the JUSTICE Act. But, we must do so mindfully while considering the limits of those reforms.

Much of the current debate relies on constitutional arguments about the First and Fourth Amendments. This makes sense in the courts where the judiciary is only obligated to consider interpretations of the Bill of Rights. But this is not the standard on which we should base our mobilizing. More is at stake than free speech and privacy. As librarian Emily Drabinski wrote during the last reauthorization period:

“There are … fundamental limits to a strategy of resistance that is essentially reactive and narrow in focus. While librarians respond quickly and effectively to challenges posed by the Patriot Act, we have little in the way of sustained resistance to systemic forces that undermine information equity and access in less visible but more fundamental ways” (2006).

This means, fundamentally, we must address the fact that the PATRIOT Act was born in the context of neoliberalism. Its foundation was laid long before September 11, 2001. So, as we consider a shared platform for public education, grassroots actions and Washington lobbying efforts, activists and progressive librarians should frame our concerns and solutions within the frameworks of human rights and global justice. This requires some deeper vision and deeper collaboration than we have attempted.

To start, a global justice vision of intellectual freedom has at its heart a practice of active solidarity with the communities (both domestic and international) most impacted by the War on Terror, including immigrants to the U.S. regardless of their citizenship status. Our demands must include an end to racial profiling and directly challenge attacks on dissent and political speech — such attacks were recently embodied by “homegrown terrorism” legislation (H.R.1955, S.1959, 110th), which passed the House by a vote of 404–6. The bill never became law, but we can expect to see similar legislation again.

A global justice vision of intellectual freedom draws connections between privacy erosion, the growing prison system, preemptive wars and the repression of global social movements. It has at its core a commitment to the abolition of torture, indefinite detainment, secret wiretaps and other forms of government surveillance. It means overturning the PATRIOT Act, not simply reforming it. We must not lend truth to the idea that safety and human rights are at odds.

Further, the library profession, in particular, needs to achieve broader coalition than we have in the past. Section 215 (dubbed “the library provision”) is a threat to more than just library patron privacy. While the library community mobilized quickly to challenge Section 215 and succeeded in winning important changes during the last reauthorization, the revisions do not go far enough. Warrants issued under Section 215 remain a danger to community organizing groups, charities, service providers, international aid organizations and, especially, groups working with communities of color and immigrants. Section 215’s expiration provides a critical opportunity for libraries to work in coalition with other impacted groups.

What do I propose? By joining with public interest, human rights, media reform, racial justice and grassroots global justice groups, the library community might help bring these policies into greater focus. At least one example in the right direction includes the joint proposals made by contributors to the document Liberty and Security: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress. Their collaborative effort to address broad information policy issues is an example to follow. I hope to post more community-based examples to this blog as the reauthorization debate gains momentum.

The 111th Congress will make a number of important decisions over the new few months. The level of heat in those debates should be determined by the strength and coordination of our local-to-national organizing. With December 31 just around the corner, it’s time to light the match.

*NOTE: According to DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General, the FBI issued 192,499 National Security Letter requests between 2003-2006 alone. All but 3 of these NSL recipients are unknown because PATRIOT Act § 505 stipulates nondisclosure, or a gag order. We do know that San Francisco’s Internet Archive (IA) received one of these NSLs. The FBI ordered IA to turn over transactional records including the name, address, email headers, length of service, and activity logs for specific users. IA fought the request and gag in court. Details came to light in mid-2008. We should not miss the opportunity to build on the momentum of well-publicized NSL abuse.

Recommended Reading and References

Drabinski, E. (2006, Winter). Librarians and the Patriot Act. Radical Teacher. Retrieved from, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JVP/is_77/ai_n27098778/

Gorham-Oscilowski, U., & Jaeger, P. T. (2008). National Security Letters, the USA PATRIOT Act, and the Constitution: The tensions between national security and civil rights. Government Information Quarterly, 25(4), 625-644.

Mart, S. N. (2008, March 12). The chains of the Constitution and legal process in the library: A post-Patriot Reauthorization Act assessment. [Unpublished working paper]. Retrieved November 25, 2008, from Social Science Research Network at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1105448. UPDATED VERSION AVAILABLE: 33 OKLA. CITY U. L. REV. 435 (2008).

Office of the Inspector General. (2007a, March). A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of National Security Letters. [NSL Audit Report]. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/s0703b/final.pdf.

Office of the Inspector General. (2007b, March). A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of Section 215 Orders for Business Records. [Section 215 Audit Report]. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/s0703a/final.pdf

Philadelphia Libraries Saved

In activism, labor, library funding, public libraries on September 21, 2009 at 7:55 am

logoflpUpdate on my previous post about Philadelphia library closures:

On September 17th legislators in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania voted to save the Philadelphia Free Library system along with jobs for 3,000 city workers. Thousands of letters and phone calls poured in from PA voters, library users and advocates across the nation after it was announced all 54 library branches would close October 2nd.

The Senate vote was 32 to 17 in favor of House Bill 1828, which temporarily increases local sales tax and defers city pension contributions to remedy a $700-million budget shortfall. If the bill hadn’t passed other critical city services would have been reduced including trash collection, court operations and the fire department. According to the Senate roll call, all democrats supported the bill. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans opposed and 41% supported.

Philadelphia: Stop Library Closures

In information access, library funding, public libraries on September 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

Repost from About.com: Cities & Towns:

When Mayor Michael Nutter suggested slashing funds from the city budget late last year by closing 11 of Philadelphia’s 54 libraries, waves of shock and outrage rippled through the city. Now, as state budget negotiations continue to drag on in Harrisburg, the entire Philadelphia library system is threatened. The Free Library has posted an announcement on its website stating that “without the necessary budgetary legislation by the State Legislature in Harrisburg,” Philadelphia will be forced to close all of its libraries – including the main branch – on October 2nd. Earlier today the Inquirer further reported that “layoff notices could go out on Friday if the Legislature does not approve the city’s request for a temporary sales-tax hike and a two-year deferral of payments into the pension fund.”

The Free Library is encouraging Philadelphians to contact their elected officials and ask them to help keep the libraries open.