May 17, 2018

ALA Opposes Bill That Would Add Criminal Penalties to Patriot Act Noncompliance

By LJ Staff

The American Library Association (ALA) is opposing a new bill, HR 3179, that would establish criminal penalties of up to five years in prison for violating the gag order provision in Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Act. That section, which amended the rules regarding “national security letters,” gave the FBI increased authority to obtain databases of records without a court order, or any standard for protecting individual privacy, ALA says, arguing instead that an ordinary search warrant or grand jury subpoena is sufficient. Currently, compliance with the letter and the gag order that prohibits a recipient from protesting such a letter are mandatory, but no specific penalties are listed. Rather, said ALA, the rules should be amended in the other direction. “The recipient should also be able to challenge the gag provision in a court of law, and should be permitted to contact an attorney, congressional committee, or the Justice Department’s Inspector General without fear of being criminally prosecuted for violating the gag provision,” said Patrice McDermott, deputy director of the Office of Government Relations (OGR) in ALA’s Washington Office.