FBI documents confirm ALA USA PATRIOT Act concerns


June 22, 2004

(CHICAGO) Just-released Federal Bureau of Investigation documents indicate that the FBI sought to use Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act less than one month after Attorney General John Ashcroft told American Library Association (ALA) President Carla Hayden and the American public that this power had never been used. The records, turned over to the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) and other First Amendment organizations, do not indicate how many times the FBI has invoked Section 215 since October 2003.

"These documents demonstrate there is no validity in the Department of Justice's ongoing suggestions that librarians and other critics of PATRIOT Act provisions are 'hysterical,'" Hayden said. "The guidance memo confirms the ALA's understanding of the scope and nature of the business records authority granted by Section 215 and that the judicial review is of a lower legal standard than was previously provided in U.S. law."

The records about the government's use of the PATRIOT Act were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in October 2003 on behalf of the FTRF, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. Five documents were released, including a guidance memorandum on Business Records Orders and an email that acknowledges that Section 215 can be used to obtain physical objects - including a person's apartment key - in addition to records. To see electronic versions of the documents, please go to


A further release is expected in July.

To read more about the ALA's objections to USA PATRIOT Act, please visit


As part of the Campaign for Reader Privacy //www.readerprivacy.org , the ALA has helped gather more than 130,000 signatures seeking amendments to the Act.

Larra Clark, Press Officer

Informant: Michael Novick


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Juni 2004

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