Read any good books lately? Tell Big Brother.

From The New York Times:

“[US] Law enforcement officials have made at least 200 formal and informal inquiries to libraries for information on reading material and other internal matters since October 2001, according to a new study that adds grist to the growing debate in Congress over the government’s counterterrorism powers…

In a slightly surreal passage, the report explains that the provisions of the Patriot Act limits the scope of the survey:

“The study does not directly answer how or whether the Patriot Act has been used to search libraries. The association said it decided it was constrained from asking direct questions on the law because of secrecy provisions that could make it a crime for a librarian to respond. Federal intelligence law bans those who receive certain types of demands for records from challenging the order or even telling anyone they have received it.

Or, in plain English:

“Carol Brey-Casiano, who runs the library system in El Paso and is president of the library association, said she, too, sensed a public unease.
“We’re concerned about protecting people’s privacy,” she said. “People will say to me, ‘I’ve read about the Patriot Act, and does that mean the government can come in and ask you what I’m reading?’ And my answer to them has to be, ‘Yes, they can,’ and quite frankly, I can’t even tell anyone if that happened, because there’s a gag order.”

According to Bloomberg:

“When the American Library Association surveyed U.S. libraries for a report on the impact of the USA Patriot Act, it went out of its way — far out of its way — to house the information.
The choice: a computer server in Canada, beyond the reach of U.S. authorities. “Not that I’m paranoid or anything,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the Chicago-based library association’s Washington office.”

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