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Obama Wants Your Library Records

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.

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Comments

  1. Sonja Vonjoy says:

    You know, of all the things to complain about this is what you do. No wonder, you’re called the “Annoyed Librarian”! Our economy is in the toilet thanks to the last rascal and we’re fighting two wars, also thanks to the last rascal and this is what you gripe about.. Now I know many people have misconceptions about librarians, people like you! You should be coming up with ways to embrace the new administration in hopes that they will make some kind of segway as fars funding for libraries and schools across this great country. Do yourself a favor and take your pessimism on vacation for the next four years, we surely don’t need it!

  2. clear and open mind says:

    Here’s the deal: patrons don’t care about the Patriot Act. Only paranoid librarians care. Librarians like to pretend they are protecting patron privacy rights when they get their buns all twisted up about the Patriot Act. The reality is they are protecting their own liberal agendas. If somebody needs to see a patron’s check-out record (including mine), let them.

  3. areyoukidding? says:

    Dear Clear and Open. Patrons definitely do care. When we instituted Envisionware to control our internet computers we were inundated with angry complaints that we were in league with the FBI and just wanted to be big brother and stick our noses in their business (because the had to put in their library card number to use the internet). Of course, we weren’t doing that but they thought we were and it pissed them off. We were called Gestapo, Big Brother, and power hungry bureaucrats (I don’t get paid enough to be called that). Now, maybe they just didn’t want to get caught looking at naughty stuff or maybe not.

  4. Lagbolt says:

    I’m a patron and I certainly care. I’m disgusted that the Obama administration would extend this part of the Patriot Act.

    I don’t think I’m personally at much risk – my reading history is quite boring – but I stopped using library computers as soon as my browsing history became vulnerable.

    It bothers me a whole lot that I’m not sure that the staff in my local library would choose to protect my privacy over obeying the law.

  5. Paige107 says:

    Folks, the Patriot Act collects data from a variety of fields, not just libraries. Your reading/viewing preferences are combined with tax records and correlated to public data such as census and voting records, tv ratings, credit card usage etc to create predictive population and individual profiles. Millions of records exist about anyone with a social security number. The Obama Administration is an extremely technically proficient team. As likeable as President Obama is, we should not allow ourselves to be blinded by our optomism. The Patriot Act is just as invasive as it was before and will be used for at least the same reasons as the previous administration.

    THANK YOU, Annoyed Librarian, for keeping an eye on this issue and continuing to keep us informed.

  6. Weary Librarian says:

    So Sonja Vonjoy, should we all just click our heels a few times and think happy thoughts? I don’t think that will help either. At least in pointing out the problems we might be motivated to change things.

  7. clear and open mind says:

    Advice: if you don’t want people to know about what you are doing, don’t do it in a public place. If you check out a book or look at a web page in a library, other people will know about it – don’t expect privacy in a public place.

  8. UpToHere says:

    The economy isn’t in the tank because of the last rascal. It’s in the tank because liberals wanted banks to loan money to poor people who couldn’t afford to pay it back. In everything from home loans to a Circuit City credit account for that big screen, people with low incomes were allowed to live way above their means. Then the bottom fell out. Those polices were established in the Clinton Administration.

    And I’m certain Obama was all for not peeking into patron’s library activities until he got his first National Security briefing. Would love to have been a fly on the wall in that one…”You’re kidding! This really is happening? I thought this only happened on 24.” Reality check dude. And welcome sir. Oh, and just where would you like to put those detainees from GITMO? Their own country? Sorry, they don’t want them back. Our prisons? Sorry, our own prisoners will make sure they have “accidents”. They are actually safest down in Cuba.

    But if it makes you feel any better, the Supreme Court won’t revive the Child Online Protection Act. So all the pervs that make it into libraries can rest easy and post all the junk they want. Go see Drudge and look at the link Supreme Court Won’t Revive Online Content Law

  9. UpToHere says:

    The economy isn’t in the tank because of the last rascal. It’s in the tank because liberals wanted banks to loan money to poor people who couldn’t afford to pay it back. In everything from home loans to a Circuit City credit account for that big screen, people with low incomes were allowed to live way above their means. Then the bottom fell out. Those polices were established in the Clinton Administration.

    And I’m certain Obama was all for not peeking into patron’s library activities until he got his first National Security briefing. Would love to have been a fly on the wall in that one…”You’re kidding! This really is happening? I thought this only happened on 24.” Reality check dude. And welcome sir. Oh, and just where would you like to put those detainees from GITMO? Their own country? Sorry, they don’t want them back. Our prisons? Sorry, our own prisoners will make sure they have “accidents”. They are actually safest down in Cuba.

    But if it makes you feel any better, the Supreme Court won’t revive the Child Online Protection Act. So all the pervs that make it into libraries can rest easy and post all the junk they want. Go see Drudge and look at the link Supreme Court Won’t Revive Online Content Law

  10. librarydude says:

    Sonjy Vonjoy said: “Our economy is in the toilet thanks to the last rascal.”

    If you don’t know what you are talking about, it’s probably better to just say nothing.

  11. Brent says:

    I hope it is OK to not care about this issue. I could name 20 more pressing concerns of how our government violates Americans’ privacy than if they knew I checked out a book or viewed a music video on YouTube. Get some perspective here. Fight the bigger issues.

  12. Sonja Joyvon says:

    “Do yourself a favor and take your pessimism on vacation for the next four years, we surely don’t need it!”

    Yes, Sonja, your insight into what the AL should write about is penetrating, if not devastatingly trenchant. My god! what would we all have done without you? You hear that AL, Sonja disagrees with what you’re saying. Time to shut it down!

  13. Do-rag says:

    There’s nothing worse than an earnest librarian berating the AL over something she wrote; laughable, Sonja!

  14. clearandpresentmind says:

    You may be able to think of 20 ways the government is more intrusive but we don’t have careers in those areas. We are concerned about the library because that is where we are. The problem with looking at what someone checks out is that you are viewing it in a vacuum. The person’s intent can easily be misconstrued. Why did they check out a book on bombs? Because they are a terrorist or because they are doing a research paper? Or pure curiosity.

  15. Gilligan says:

    Nothing worse? How about spending four years on a deserted island with Ginger and Mary Ann and not being able to get busy.

  16. clear and open mind says:

    If you don’t want people to know that you are reading a book about bombs, don’t check one out of the library. If you don’t want people to know that you like to look at pictures of horses in heat, don’t look at them at the library. Simple.

  17. TradeBoy Solo says:

    Why bother to check out a bombing making book when I can google(tm) the information? And, use a free proxy server to hide my IP address?

  18. HippieMan says:

    The state is always instrusive. That’s the nature of the state. Oh, and it loves violence as well. You could have Mickey Mouse as prez and they’d be snooping through your email.

  19. LOOK OUT says:

    LOOK OUT THE LIBERALS OH GOD THE LIBERALS ARE COMING

  20. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “Obama Wants Your Library Records ”

    Been there, done that…..

    Yah..well show me the subpoena and I’ll send you to HQ with it, and you can discuss it with Administration….

  21. Detached Amusement says:

    For next year’s Midwinter ALA should have a tug of war between people who are
    pro and anti AL. Have a big slime and mud pit. Also feature a “Bitch Slapping” match as part of the festivities.

  22. Vegans For Meat says:

    The liberal/conservative distinction is outmoded and irrelevant. I’m sure it’s fun to treat your politics like a football game, the way some of you do: team against team, you may even enjoy drinking beer while you root for your political party. Meanwhile, reality contiunues to move past your truncated worldview. Have fun in la-la land!

  23. clearandpresentmind says:

    “if you don’t want people to know that you are reading a book about bombs, don’t check one out of the library. If you don’t want people to know that you like to look at pictures of horses in heat, don’t look at them at the library. Simple.” Simple, but wrong. People have a right to not have people sticking their noses in their business. One shouldn’t have to buy a book simply to avoid being hunted like a medieval witch. And you’re missing the point. We have nothing against a properly executed search warrant where the FBI has proven they have a reason to look. But these warrants do not show cause. The are in simple fact a fishing expedition.

  24. HippieMan says:

    Liberals or conservatives…what’s the difference? We’re headed to environmental oblivion and all these gov’ts care about is filling their own pockets and denying we’re killing the planet. You think Obama is going to do anything about global warming? I got a bridge to sell you in… Please. Humans are a suicidal species, and gov’ts allow this tendency to flourish. Over and out. End of rant.

  25. Elisa says:

    *Eyes widening* What next? Frequent FBI visits to libraries?

  26. Christine Thomka says:

    UpToHere, I like the way you think.”It’s in the tank because liberals wanted banks to loan money to poor people who couldn’t afford to pay it back. In everything from home loans to a Circuit City credit account for that big screen, people with low incomes were allowed to live way above their means. Then the bottom fell out.” Too many people with an over-inflated sense of entitlement, expecting loans and handouts. My father, wise man that he is, always said “It’s not what you make, it’s what you spend.” America is the land of opportunity, but people have to learn that they have to work hard to earn what they want, whether it is money, education,respect or whatever it is you may want. Expecting someone else to foot the bill is not going to work, and unfortunately all of us hardworking taxpayers are now footing the bill for these mistakes.

  27. Johnny CASH says:

    The credit problem is everybody’s fault, not just working class people or those with “over-inflated senses of entitlement,” whatever that is. Our entire culture is based on borrowing and spending from the top down. No one is to blame and everyone is to blame at the same time. Playing the blame game isn’t going to solve these problems. Like it or not, we’re all in this together.

  28. clear and open mind says:

    foggyandpresentmind said: “People have a right to not have people sticking their noses in their business.”

    Wrong. That right ends when you leave your home. If you’re in a public place, you have no right to expect privacy. It’s a nice wish, but there is no legal right to privacy in a public place. If you want privacy, stay home. Simple.

  29. clearandpresentmind says:

    Mind like a sieve said: “Wrong. That right ends when you leave your home. If you’re in a public place, you have no right to expect privacy. It’s a nice wish, but there is no legal right to privacy in a public place. If you want privacy, stay home. Simple.” According to our state law library records cannot be given out without a subpoena. That sounds a lot like a right to keep what you check out private. And if you think what you do at home is private you are very naive. Simple.

  30. clear and open mind says:

    Despite your state law, many people have access to your library records, such as library employees. So that means that your library record is not private. Like I said, if you want privacy, don’t go to a public place. And if you do, don’t expect politicians to protect your privacy. That’s not their job.

  31. just a thought says:

    I’m too damn busy to care what people check out and so are my collegues. I don’t think your friendly neighborhood librarian is keeping his/her list of your checkout history to share over a glass of wine with their friends so they can have a good life or freak out about a patrons reading interests.

  32. someone says:

    clear and open mind commented “Wrong. That right ends when you leave your home. If you’re in a public place, you have no right to expect privacy. It’s a nice wish, but there is no legal right to privacy in a public place.”

    You’re ill-informed. I suggest you find a basic textbook on constitutional law, look up “privacy” in its index, and read the sections referred. You seem to be confusing the fact that people enjoy more rights to privacy in their homes than they do in public with the concept that there is no expectation of privacy at all in public places. Oh, and before you go and squawk about there being no enumerated right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution read the Griswold decision.

    You also might try reading a document even more fundamental than a Supreme Court majority decision, the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment guarantees a right to be secure from unreasonable searches not just in peoples’ homes but in “their persons”.

    You overstated your claim.

  33. clear and open mind says:

    Well someone, I searched my copy of the Constitution of the United States and I couldn’t find the word privacy anywhere in the document. Many liberals have tried your argument to stretch the ninth amendment to include privacy but it’s not explicit. To expect privacy in a public place is wishful thinking at best and naive at worst.

  34. one man and one woman says:

    It’s okay to have a liberal as president, because the president is really nothing more than a figurehead when it comes to public policy. We need to make sure that the conservatives stay in judicial positions to bring common sense to the gay marriage joke.

  35. anonymous says:

    re: Well someone, I searched my copy of the Constitution of the United States and I couldn’t find the word privacy anywhere in the document. < <


    Exercise your information literacy skills and try searching two and a half centuries of Supreme Court decisions.

    Do real librarians even read this blog anymore?

  36. benny says:

    “The credit problem is everybody’s fault, not just working class people or those with ‘over-inflated senses of entitlement,’”
    Thank you. This line of thinking is border line racist.
    Many people have an “over-inflated sense of entitlement” – but it’s certainly not the men/women who’s salaries gets picked apart well before they get a shot at wasting it on car stereos and rims.
    Big screen TV?!! That’s what’s jacked up the economy?
    I suppose the current state of public schools have nothing to do with thoughtless/short-sighted/greedy politicians? NO. Poor people must have caused that, too!
    Forget Obama, Rupert Murdoch is the true Pied Piper.

  37. Frogger says:

    Do real librarians even read this blog anymore?

    So does that mean you consider yourself to be a “real” librarian? You must be really proud of yourself to have reached such a high level of achievement.

  38. clearandpresentmind says:

    “Despite your state law, many people have access to your library records, such as library employees. ” Who are required to keep that info. to themselves. You have a weak argument and you still haven’t addressed what I said regarding showing cause for a search.

  39. Clearandpresentmind says:

    “To expect privacy in a public place is wishful thinking at best and naive at worst.” So when I use my credit card at a restaurant I have no right to expect they won’t share the number with their friends? Or to expect my doctor to keep my medical business private? They don’t make house calls anymore. Repeating your mantra over and over doesn’t make it so.

  40. RoboGod says:

    Get BIG GOVERNMENT, BIG BUSINESS, and BIG RELIGIONS out of our lives. Thanks!

  41. clear and open mind says:

    So when I use my credit card at a restaurant I have no right to expect they won’t share the number with their friends?

    That’s theft, not invasion of privacy. Big difference.

  42. clearandpresentmind says:

    “That’s theft, not invasion of privacy. Big difference.” Small difference. The theft begins with an invasion of privacy.

  43. clear and open mind says:

    The theft is a crime, the invasion of privacy is just a rude thing to do. Big difference.

  44. one dummy and one fool says:

    Crime is theft and invasion is privacy. Bigger difference than yours.