Campus Librarians Fight Proposed Expansion of Surveillance Powers

From The Chronicle Of Higher Education

College librarians are leading a charge against measures in the House and Senate that would grant federal intelligence agencies great latitude in gathering data on library patrons.

The bills, which are intended to replace a temporary law amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, would let the government force “communications-service providers” to hand over information about the activity of users who are not U.S. citizens. Government officials would not be compelled to demonstrate probable cause that subjects are spies or terrorists, reports The Washington Post. (The Department of Justice has stated that libraries are considered to be Internet-service providers.)

Campus librarians say it’s all too easy to imagine scenarios in which federal investigators look in on foreign students who just happen to use library machines or networks as they conduct research at American colleges or from overseas. The Association of Research Libraries, the American Library Association, and the Association of American Universities are lobbying to have the bill amended.

So far, though, the response from lawmakers has not been encouraging. “You know what happens if that gets into the bill?” asked Sen. Christopher S. Bond, a Missouri Republican who helped craft the Senate measure, of the amendment favored by the library groups. “You would have your libraries filled with al Qaeda operatives.” —Brock Read

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