Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

The PATRIOT Act and Libraries: A Sensitive Relationship

Pike, George H. (2005) The PATRIOT Act and Libraries: A Sensitive Relationship. Information Today, 22 (10). 1 - ?. ISSN 8755-6286

Submitted Version
Available under License : See the attached license file.

Download (21kB) | Preview
[img] Plain Text (licence)
Available under License : See the attached license file.

Download (1kB)


The sensitive relationship between libraries and the USA PATRIOT Act is back at the top of the headlines. In August, a “member of the American Library Association”, known only as “John Doe”, filed a federal lawsuit after receiving a National Security Letter (NSL) from the FBI. The NSL requested information from John Doe pursuant to an “authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” John Doe is prohibited from discussing the letter or even that they had received the letter John Doe’s lawsuit argues that the provisions of the PATRIOT Act governing NSLs violate the Constitution’s free speech provisions and protections against unreasonable searches. In particular, John Doe argues that the secrecy provision prevents him or her from relating their experiences with the PATRIOT Act as part of the public debate of the Act’s renewal. Most of the concern and debate on the PATRIOT Act’s impact on libraries has focused on Section 215 of the Act. This controversial provision allows government officials to obtain “any tangible things” during an intelligence or terrorism investigation, including library and bookstore records. The Act also requires the recipient of a request to keep it secret. Section 215 is due to expire in December, 2005. However, there are several proposals to extend and modify this section currently being debated in Congress. Section 215 is not unlimited. The law provides that searches which target U.S. citizens cannot be based only on activities protected by the first amendment, such as reading or speech. The law also requires that a subpoena be obtained from a designated federal court judge, who reviews the subpoena request to ensure that it complies with the law. Although this process has been criticized for its secrecy and overwhelming history of approving subpoena requests, there is at least some judicial review.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Pike, George H.
Date: November 2005
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Information Today
Volume: 22
Number: 10
Publisher: Learned Information, Inc., Medford, NJ
Page Range: 1 - ?
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Law > Law
School of Law > Law > Faculty Publications
Refereed: No
Uncontrolled Keywords: USA, PATRIOT, Act, USA, PATRIOT, Reauthorization, Act, privacy, national, security, civil, liberties, constitutional, rights, secrecy, provision, free, speech, First, Amendment, American, Library, Association, intelligence, gathering, unwarranted, searches
ISSN: 8755-6286
Official URL:
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2009 14:24
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2018 00:55


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item