President Signs Antiterrorism Bill; Library Groups Examine Impact

November 5, 2001

President Bush signed sweeping antiterrorism legislation October 26 that expands the government’s powers to conduct electronic surveillance, obtain business and medical records, and detain immigrants without charges. The measure, known as the USA Patriot Act, passed the Senate by a 98–1 vote and the House by 356 to 66.

The New York Times reported October 26 that law enforcement officials said they would immediately begin seeking subpoenas to obtain information on computers used by terrorist suspects.

Library groups had voiced concern over the legislation. The American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the American Association of Law Libraries sent a letter to members of Congress October 2 expressing apprehension that the measure threatened library users’ privacy and First Amendment rights.

Lynne Bradley of ALA’s Washington Office said, “ALA and its library association allies are now carefully and closely reviewing the law and its impact on libraries.” The groups are particularly looking at “the intersection of this federal law and other laws, including state library confidentiality laws,” she added. Bradley urged any libraries that receive subpoenas under the measure to relate their experiences to the Washington Office.

Posted November 5, 2001.

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