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H.R. 4947 creates important enforcement mechanisms to protect against wrongful disclosure of video records: (1) civil penalties for infractions (2) requirement of written consent from consumer for disclosure of personal identifiable information at time the disclosure is sought. Currently such information about individuals is released unless it is expressly prohibited. People for the American Way Action Fund strongly supports the new enforcement and consent provisions.
Americans must be assured that their choices of library materials and video transactions are kept private. H.R. 4947 creates such clear and uniform protections in federal law. People for the American Way Action Fund urges Congress and the President to support the "video and Library Protection Act," and to oppose all weakening amendments.
ohn Buchanan, Jr.
Arthur J. Kropp
Dear Congressman Kastenmeier:
This letter is to convey the support of the Association of Research Libraries for the Video and Libraly Privacy Protection Act of 1988, HR 4947. The provisions of the bill are in harmony with the policies of research libraries and such a federal law will strengthen protection for the confidentiality of library records by prohibiting their disclosure except with the person's consent or under court order.
In a related matter, ARL follows the investigation of the FBI Library Awareness Program by the Civil and Constitutional Rights Subcommittee. ARL has formally opposed the Library Awareness Program and we have asked FBI Director Sessions to publicly disavow the program. We await with considerable interest the next steps in the Subcommittee investigation.
We now understand there may be a national security letter exemption in the Video and Library Privacy Protection Act that allows the FBI to gain access to records without court order pursuant to foreign counterintelligence activity. We strongly oppose this provision. We also do not understand the rationale for considering it as part of HR 4947.
It is ARL's position that library records deserve to be protected by a higher standard than this exemption provides. Library records represent First Amendment activities - to receive and exchange information - and should be revealed only after a judicial review determines it is necessary. In addition, the FBI has said publicly that they are not interested in, nor do they seek to see library records. So what is the need for exempting the Bureau from the Video and Library Privacy Protection Act?
A mandatory or permissive national security letter exemption in HR 4947 would in part authorize, or be perceived by library users as authorization, for the Library Awareness Program and other similar activities. Adoption of this exemption would also put an end to the Congressional investigation of the Library Awareness Program. Given the negative publicity and questions that remain unanswered by the PBI about the Library Awareness Program, these are not desirable consequences.
ARL urges that the House address the two issues separately by passing the Video and Library Records Protection Act this session but without a national security letter exemption. This action would strengthen protection for the confidentiality of video and library records and allow the ongoing Congressional investigation in the Library Awareness Program to continue.
Duane E. Webster
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The Honorable Louis Stokes
September 22, 1988
Dear Mr. Chairman:
We are writing to you about H.R. 4947, the video and Library Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of video and library records. The bill has broad, bipartisan support. It was introduced in response to the disclosure of Judge Robert Bork's video store records during his Supreme Court nomination hearings, and was expanded to include libraries, where the potential for similar abuses is great.
We understand that representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have spoken with certain Members about possible amendments to the bill. We are greatly concerned that these amendments not be permitted to impede the progress of the bill, which is presently being marked up by the Subcommittee on Courts, civil Liberties and the Administration of Justice. We expect the bill to be favorably reported by the Subcommittee, and to proceed to full Judiciary Committee consideration next week.
We stress that the FBI has never formally contacted us about any problems with H.R. 4947. Counsel to the Subcommittee met with FBI representatives last July 13,
and the Bureau was informally invited to testify at the Subcommittee's August 3 hearing. A formal invitation letter was issued on July 26, 1988. The Bureau declined these invitations, both informally to Subcommittee counsel, and in an August 2, 1988 letter from Director william Sessions. On both occasions, however, the Bureau promised to submit written comments on the bill. We have never received any such comments.
Our understanding, however, is that the Bureau has eight specific problems with H.R. 4947. Seven of the problems relate generally to the scope of materials prohibited from disclosure, and to the standards by which law enforcement agencies may seek court ordered disclosure of video and library records. They Bureau apparently believes that these standards are too onerous,
and we are willing to seek appropriate amendments at the full Committee markup to rectify these seven concerns.
The eighth proposal is a request that the FBI be permitted to obtain video and library records without seeking a court order, through a national security letter. While we recognize that such a procedure has been authorized in other laws, relating to bank and telephone toll records, we strongly believe that this procedure is inappropriate in this context. First, the materials protected by H.R. 4947 are protected by the First Amendment, and thus entitled to the strongest possible prohibition against disclosure. Second, the FBI has simply not made any case that the national security letter procedure is warranted here. In testimony about the Library Awareness Program before
the Subcommittee on civil and Constitucional Rights last July, the Bureau testified that "I can assure you that the FBI is not now nor has it ever been interested in the reading habits of American citizens. . I have found no situation at all where we got any records or any information on any u.s. person as far as library records or personal information goes, any." In either the video or library context, there has been no evidence to the contrary.
We are more than willing to accommodate the FBI in its legitimate law enforcement needs. However, the Bureau does not need a national security letter exemption and to permit it would create such a large hole in the bill as to render our efforts futile. The insertion of a national security letter exemption would be
by the library community congressional authorization for the Library Awareness Program, which, as you know, has generated tremendous concern among librarians. Given the questions raised by the Bureau's conduct in the CISPES case, where extensive use was made of the national security letter to obtain bank and telephone toll records, this is time to authorize further use of the technique, particularly for records with First Amendment implications, such as library and video records.
We hope that you will not act favorably on any request that the House Committee on Intelligence seek a sequential referral on H.R. 4947. Please feel free to contact either of us if you need more information about this matter.
ROBERT W. KASTENMEIER
civil Liberties and the
and constitutional Rights
I am writing to comment on H.R. 4947 and s. 2361, bills which would regulate the manner in which law enforcement agencies obtain records from libraries and video stores.
of significant concern to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies is the cumulative effect that this legislation and other similar legislative initiatives have on law enforcement's ability to protect the public safety and ensure the national security. The notification requirements and the administrative burden necessary to obtain such information will deter law enforcement requests for such information. More importantly, the standards contained in these bills are tantamount to an absolute prohibition of disclosure of personally identifiable information to law enforcement agencies for investigative purposes.
One of the exceptions created by the bills would provide for the disclosure of information incidental to or necessary for legitimate business concerns. It is troublesome that information prohibited for law enforcement purposes could be readily disclosed for business purposes.
I understand that 38 states have already acted to provide for confidentiality of library records. Federal legislation for library confidentiality is an intrusion into areas traditionally regulated by the states. Regulation of video record confidentiality by the states is to be expected. If Congress, however, determines that Federal legislation is required to protect personally identifiable information held by video service providers and libraries, I cffer the followiny recommendations that would sure essential law enforcemer.t