Somehow I missed this the other day. I was so busy getting pelted by firehoses and nibbled at by police dogs that I didn’t read my feed. The Library Link of the Day was to a San Francisco Chronicle story: Under Obama, feds may still snoop library files.
"President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general has endorsed an extension of the law that allows federal agents to demand Americans’ library and bookstore records as part of terrorism probes, dismaying a national group of independent booksellers.
Eric Holder said at his confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he supports renewing a section of the USA Patriot Act that allows FBI agents investigating international terrorism or espionage to seek records from businesses, libraries and bookstores. If not renewed by Congress, the provision will expire at the end of 2009."
Hmmm, that would certainly seem to put a damper on yesterday’s celebrations by many librarians. Actually, I’m not sure anyone was celebrating, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t doing any work during the inauguration. It’s the only time my email inbox quieted down all week.
Then I found that the Safelibraries Guy had emailed me his response to this news. His main complaint is that Judith Krug and the ALA failed to respond to this story within a day or so. What Safelibraries Guy might not realize, since he’s not a librarian, is that ALA has a "meeting" this week in Denver, and the Midwinter Meeting of the ALA surely takes precedence over Obama supporting library-record searching and gag orders for librarians. Safelibraries Guy thinks it’s part of ALA hypocrisy, since Krug likes to come out strong against Republicans, but that’s just silly. She, like all firm believers in civil liberties such as the ACLU, is completely objective in her responses to events. Well, probably she is. Come to think of it, she isn’t, really, and is definitely something of a partisan extremist from what I can tell, but that’s beside the point. The important thing is that there’s a conference coming up and those ALA folks are busy doing whatever it is they do. Eating and drinking on the money from our ALA dues, most likely.
But let’s try to be objective about this. Does this really surprise anyone? Has there ever been a Presidential administration that has reduced the power of government over the citizens of this great republic? Even that sunny Ronald Reagan, despite his claim government wasn’t the solution to the problem but the problem itself, increased the size and scope of government. Governments expand, they don’t contract. Oh, I know the Republicans talk a good game about reducing the scope of government, but that’s either because they’re stupid or hypocrites hoping to get the enormous libertarian vote out there, because it just doesn’t happen.
And a Democratic administration isn’t even going to make any noises to appease its libertarian fringe, because it doesn’t have a libertarian fringe. In this case it wouldn’t do any good to try to appease its socialist fringe, because socialist governments absolutely love knowing every little thing about every citizen. Citizen privacy under socialism? Whoever heard of such a thing?
Oh sure, there’s a promise to close Gitmo, but there aren’t any Americans in Gitmo, and if there are they aren’t checking out library books about how to build bombs. Other than that, Obama hasn’t made much in the way of promises regarding civil liberties, so there’s not even a lie to catch him in.
Though I’m sure the politicos at ALA will continue to oppose the Patriot Act just so they don’t appear completely hypocritical, they probably will be less critical of Obama than they were of Bush. The reason isn’t their political hypocrisy, but instead the belief cherished by all radicals, from Judith Krug to George W. Bush, that the problem isn’t the power, but who wields it. As long as there are good and nice people snooping through our library records and putting gag orders on us, it’s fine. It’s only when bad and mean people do it that it’s a problem.
At least I assume that’s the rationalization they’ll use. It always seems to work for me.