Do you all remember, when the Patriot Act was passed? Who was the first to defy and stand against it? Libraries. Yep, the Libraries around the country refused to cooperate with DHS and refused to turn over patrons’ information. See more at the bottom of this page. Now the DHS shut down anonymous web usage at libraries. Just a little thought for the reader. Who said DHS was part of law enforcement? If they were truly law enforcement, they could pull folks over for speeding and get involved in crime fighting.
I am very concerned about the language that law enforcement and DHS used here. An unnamend agent forwarded the info to a Sergeant, yet that is not considered direct contact. Had it been a criminal enterprise, the apparatus would have claimed that that is direct contact. This is also ensuring that all know, if one tries to ‘anonymize’ or keep one’s own business one’s own business, one will be automatically suspect.
Who would have ever thought that libraries and librarians would be the first line of defense on Americans’ Rights? A must read from The Nation!
(Julia Angwin) Since Edward Snowden exposed the extent of online surveillance by the US government, there has been a surge of initiatives to protect users’ privacy. But it hasn’t taken long for one of these efforts—aproject to equip local libraries with technology supporting anonymous Internet surfing—to run up against opposition from law enforcement.
In July, the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was the first library in the country to become part of the anonymous Web surfing service Tor. The library allowed Tor users around the world to bounce their Internet traffic through the library, thus masking users’ locations. Soon after, state authorities received an e-mail about it from an agent at the Department of Homeland Security.
“The Department of Homeland Security got in touch with our Police Department,” said Sean Fleming, the library director of the Lebanon Public Libraries.
After a meeting at which local police and city officials discussed how Tor could be exploited by criminals, the library pulled the plug on the project. “Right now we’re on pause,” said Fleming. “We really weren’t anticipating that there would be any controversy at all.”
He said that the library board of trustees will vote on whether to turn the service back on at its meeting on Sept. 15.
Used in repressive regimes by dissidents and journalists, Tor is considered a crucial tool for freedom of expression and counts the State Department among its top donors. But Tor has been a thorn in the side of law enforcement; National Security Agency documents made public by Snowden have revealed the agency’s frustration that it could only identify a “very small fraction” of Tor users.
The idea to install Tor services in libraries emerged from Boston librarian Alison Macrina’s Library Freedom Project, which aims to teach libraries how to “protect patrons’ rights to explore new ideas, no matter how controversial or subversive, unfettered by the pernicious effects of online surveillance.” (The Library Freedom Project is funded by Knight Foundation, which also provides funding to ProPublica.) After Macrina conducted a privacy training session at the Kilton library in May, she talked to the librarian about also setting up a Tor relay, the mechanism by which users across the Internet can hide their identity.
The library board of trustees unanimously approved the plan at its meeting in June, and the relay was set up in July. But after ArsTechnica wrote about the pilot project and Macrina’s plan to install Tor relays in libraries across the nation, law enforcement got involved.
A special agent in a Boston DHS office forwarded the article to the New Hampshire police, who forwarded it to a sergeant at the Lebanon Police Department.
DHS spokesman Shawn Neudauer said the agent was simply providing “visibility/situational awareness,” and did not have any direct contact with the Lebanon police or library. “The use of a Tor browser is not, in [or] of itself, illegal and there are legitimate purposes for its use,” Neudauer said. “However, the protections that Tor offers can be attractive to criminal enterprises or actors and HSI [Homeland Security Investigations] will continue to pursue those individuals who seek to use the anonymizing technology to further their illicit activity.”
When the DHS inquiry was brought to his attention, Lt. Matthew Isham of the Lebanon Police Department was concerned. “For all the good that a Tor may allow as far as speech, there is also the criminal side that would take advantage of that as well,” Isham said. “We felt we needed to make the city aware of it.”
Deputy City Manager Paula Maville said that when she learned about Tor at the meeting with the police and the librarians, she was concerned about the service’s association with criminal activities such as pornography and drug trafficking. “That is a concern from a public relations perspective, and we wanted to get those concerns on the table,” she said.
Faced with police and city concerns, library director Fleming agreed to turn off the Tor relay temporarily until the board could reconsider. “We need to find out what the community thinks,” he said. “The only groups that have been represented so far are the Police Department and City Hall.”
Fleming said that he is now realizing the downside of being the first test site for the Tor initiative.
“There are other libraries that I’ve heard that are interested in participating, but nobody else wanted to be first,” he said. “We’re lonesome right now.”
Librarians Chafe Under USA Patriot Act
Thu Jul 31, 1:06 PM ET
By JUDITH KOHLER, Associated Press Writer
Yahoo News was the source link in the forum, but that info is gone from the internet. Thanks to the person who posted it in the stardestroyer forum in 2003.
BOULDER, Colo. – To Priscilla Hudson, public libraries are society’s great equalizer, a place where anyone can go to learn regardless of their economic, social or political background.
So she doesn’t much like Big Brother peering over their shoulder.
Hudson, manager of Boulder’s main library, is among a number of librarians nationwide who oppose a provision in the USA Patriot Act that gives authorities access to records of what people check out from libraries or buy from bookstores.
The law is why Boulder librarians have lately been purging their files on patrons every week, not every couple of months. And experts say other libraries are doing similar things.
“Boulder is truly right in line with what other libraries are doing,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association in Chicago.
The Justice Department (news – web sites) says the Patriot Act, put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is crucial in the war on terrorism. Critics say it gives the government too much power.
On Thursday, Sen. Russ Feingold (news, bio, voting record) introduced legislation that would limit the FBI (news – web sites)’s ability to gather library, bookstore and other records under the act.
The Wisconsin Democrat, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, said it makes sense to give authorities some access, but “we can protect both our nation and our privacy and civil liberties.”
The previous day, the American Civil Liberties Union (news – web sites) and several Islamic groups filed a lawsuit in Detroit against using the act to let FBI agents monitor the books people read.
The ACLU also said that under a provision of the law, librarians can’t tell the patron that the library has given the records to the government, and would be legally bound to secrecy forever.
Even before the lawsuit, librarians across the country had been waging their own form of protest.
The Santa Cruz, Calif., library is more quickly shredding its sign-in sheets for using the computers, Caldwell-Stone said. Other libraries have posted signs warning patrons that federal authorities may review their records.
The Montana Library Association passed a resolution saying it considers parts of the Patriot Act “a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights to library users.” Privacy rules there are so strict that Montana librarians must get children’s permission before telling their parents what they’re reading.
“More so than in other Western states, we have a real privacy feel to our Constitution and also our Montana code,” said John Finn of Great Falls, head of the library association.
Government officials emphasized that the act allows the government to obtain “business records,” which they said could include library records, though the act makes no mention of libraries.
Caldwell-Stone said libraries cooperate when presented with a search warrant for records. But she said the Patriot Act allows authorities to seize “any relevant tangible item” in an investigation without having to show probable cause that a crime was committed.
Forty-eight states have laws protecting library patrons’ privacy, Caldwell-Stone said. The other two, Hawaii and Kentucky, have opinions by their attorneys general upholding the right.
“What the First Amendment protects and what goes on in your head isn’t a basis for punishing you,” she said.
John Suthers, U.S. attorney in Colorado, said he appreciates the concerns, but said the Patriot Act deals with business records and doesn’t specify libraries and bookstores.
The law says the FBI cannot investigate a U.S. citizen on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment, he said. Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock also said that part of the law requires court approval to obtain records.
Libraries and book stores across the country, however, support changing the law to make sure they aren’t targeted. A book store in Montpelier, Vt., will purge purchase records for customers who ask.
The Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, one of the country’s largest independent book stores, won a fight last year to protect a customer’s privacy. The Colorado Supreme Court refused to order the store to turn over purchase records in a drug investigation.
The justices said records of what a person reads are constitutionally protected, and police must show a compelling interest in seeing them.
Tattered Cover general manager Matt Miller said because of business considerations, the store isn’t purging its records like the Vermont store.
“We certainly respect stores and libraries that choose to handle records in the way they do,” Miller said. “We spent two years trying to protect customers’ privacy and First Amendment rights. It remains an integral part of our philosophy.”
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