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The Honorable Patrick Leahy Chairman Subcommittee on Technology and the Law SH-815 Hart Senate Office Building Washington D.C. 20510 Dear Representative Kastenmeier and Senator Leahy: On behalf of the American Library Association, I want to thank you for holding the joint hearing August 3 on H.R. 4947/5. 2361. This bill is a major step forward in protecting the privacy rights of Americans. If enacted, this bill would establish a uniform federal standard which would protect the privacy of library users. This standard would be a complement to that which 38 states have already adopted and would be controlling in states where no similar law exists.
The difference between the House and Senate versions on the detail of whether a court ordered disclosure could occur in civil as well as in criminal matters received auch discussion. Our view would be that the most important concept here is that of a court order as the required vehicle for disclosure. We recognize and agree with the view expressed by Senator Leahy limiting the grounds for such an order to a criminal proceeding. Since the hearing, my colleagues and I have continued to work with staff on language and to respond to their questions. are grateful for your support and interest in this matter.
C. James Schmidt, Chair
On behalf of the American Library Association, I am writing to express our strong support for the Video and Library Privacy Protection Act of 1988, HR 4947, legislation that would create a federal right to privacy in personally identifiable library use records and video rental or sale records.
Thirty-eight states, plus the District of Columbia, have passed laws protecting the confidentiality of library use records. In addition, since 1970, the ALA and its more than 45,000 member librarians, library trustees, and libraries have had a policy: a) that library circulation records are confidential in nature; and b) that such records should not be made available to any other party except pursuant to a court order issued by a judicial authority.
The ALA opposes any amendment to the proposed legislation which would create a "national security letter" disclosure process. Particularly in view of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's repeated testimony before House and Senate committees that the Bureau is not interested in library records, and has never requested or received library records, we fail to see any justification for creating a special disclosure process to provide access to library records for the FBI or other law enforcement agencies.
Further, the adoption of any amendment to HR 4947 to create a "national sec letter" disclosure process may authorize a part of the FBI Library Awareness Program, or similar activities. Both the House and Senate recently have held hearings on these activities. Creating a "national security letter" disclosure process at this time appears to ALA to grant tacit approval to the Bureau program(s).
ALA believes that taking action which appears to endorse the very activities now under congressional scrutiny naturally undermines the integrity of the investigations, and may defeat their purpose outright.
A court order, obtained upon good cause shown to the appropriate judicial authority, is the proper vehicle for obtaining library records.
We believe the court order standard in HR 4947 is the only justifiable standard to require production of such records, and it will not impede legitimate law enforcement interests. Furthermore, this process protects librarians with a uniform standard to be applied when librarians are faced with one of the most crucial dilemmas of their profession, a choice between maintaining their professional ethics, or acceding to requests by law enforcement authorities.
Again, we strongly support the single court order standard now in the bill, and we urge the Committee on the Judiciary to defeat any amendment relating to a "national security letter" disclosure process.
Thank you for your consideration.
udith F. Krug Director Office for Intellectual Freedom
On behalf of the Special Libraries Association, I want to express our support for the confidentiality of library records maintained by public institutions. In this regard, we are pleased that the House Judiciary Committee will be considering legislation which embodies this principle, H.R. 4947, the Video and Library Privacy Protection Act of 1988.
As the bill now stands, library records could only be obtained with the approval of the individual involved or by a court order. We are chagrined to learn that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is attempting to get a "national security letter" exemption. This would enable the FBI to get confidential library records without judicial review or notification of the subject in question.
In our opinion, this circumvents the intent of the legislation and enables the FBI to obtain library records without showing cause. The Association opposes the activities of the FBI's Library Awareness Program and views this national security exemption as a way for this agency to continue its program, with, in essence, Congressional approval.
Interestingly, the FBI has stated in Congressional hearings that it is not interested in obtaining library records. We would question, therefore, why the agency deems it necessary to seek an exemption in this legislation.
We urge you, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, to oppose any national security exemption for any federal agency including the FBI during consideration of the Video and Library Privacy Protection Act of 1988.
David R. Bender
David R. Bender, Ph.D.
David R. Bender, Executive Director
On behalf of the 270,000 members of the People for the American Way Action Fund, a nonpartisan constitutional liberties organization, I urge your support for H.R. 4947, the Video and Library Privacy Act. The Courts, civil Liberties and the Administration of Justice Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up H.R. 4947 on Tuesday, October 4, 1988. The bill is an essential safeguard against the wrongful disclosure of information relating to an individual's use of libraries, and the use of services involving video rental or sale. America is in the nidst of an information revolution in which a balance must be struck between the increased ability to acquire information, and the need to protect personal privacy.
Evidence of the need for the bill is apparent in several actions brought to the attention of the public:
In 1988, it was revealed that the Federal Bureau of
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