ALA Aiding And Abetting Terrorists. Gerry writes "David Horowitz's FrontPageMag, dedicated to rooting out the fifth columns, left-liberals and hate-American conspirators among us, turns its withering gaze to LIBRARIANS.....
Please have some fun baiting true believers in the comments forum. "
At least they admit ALA librarians are not the quiet, unassuming stereotypes you see on TV and in the movies, but they go on to say while the ALA ostensibly wants to protect the First Amendment rights of all people to read what they want, they themselves seem to have not read the USA PATRIOT Act and its guarantees to protect First Amendment Rights. [LISNews.com]
Maybe it's my legal background, but I'm always interested in dissecting a controversy into the exact areas of disagreement. Although I heartily disagree with almost everything written in this article (authored by Paul Walfield), I find that it illuminates very clearly the differences in the two viewpoints.
"The idea is simple; terrorists use things like airliners against us. Now, we make it harder for them to do that by federalizing airline checkers, and putting marshals on planes and beefing up airline security in general. The Feds want to do the same for terrorists that use our libraries." Let's develop this argument a little further. The terrorists didn't just use airlines and libraries (allegedly) against the US - they exploited weaknesses inherent in an open, democratic society - freedom of association and movement, freedom of thought, and freedom to read. Let's cut to the chase - 9/11 wouldn't have happened in a police state without those freedoms. Does this mean that these fundamental human rights are to blame for the tragedy and must be curtailed? Of course, even John Ashcroft is not going to admit to that, but we live in an age of doublespeak. So instead of abrogating these freedoms, they attack the tangible institutions and professionals which protect these abstract ideas - in the name of patriotism and preserving the American way of life. The danger is that human rights expressed in the constitution become meaningless because there are no ways of protecting infringements of those rights by the executive branch of government.
"The librarians say they will not break the "sacred" trust between a patron and a librarian. The American Library Association seems to view this bond as literally sacred." This has to be the most offensive part of Walfield's article, the way that he scoffs at the idea of librarian's ethics in general, and librarian-patron confidentiality in particular. Without this confidentiality, we librarians could report all patron borrowing, reading and web surfing habits to the government - or sell this information to marketers. Everything you read will be on the record somewhere (but not accessible to you), and people will make inferences about your beliefs and security risks from this - without any input from you or any ways of fixing errors or erroneous assumptions.
"She didn't explain that when you take a book out of the library, you are giving up any right to privacy. The employees at Santa Cruz know what their people check out but will not allow our government to know the same ..." Does Walfield really think that because library employees might know what a patron is reading or borrowing, that patrons have given up all their rights to privacy? And that the government might as well know everything too? That's like saying that there's no such thing as medical privacy because doctors and nurses might know your medical information. Well, I'm glad that I can clarify that this is another reason why we emphasize librarian-patron confidentiality in our professional ethics. We know that this information is potentially very sensitive - not unlike medical records - and we take pains to be very careful with it. Library-patron confidentiality is not something which we invented after 9/11 so we could be a thorn in the side of the Bush administration and advance our left-wing agenda. My mother was an academic librarian in the 1970s and this was as central to librarianship then as it is now.
"[The Patriot Act] prohibits the government from doing anything that would infringe on an individual's First Amendment right." Yes, that's how the law is written on its face. But in effect, this protection is meaningless. It's up to the FBI to decide if they may be infringing on your first amendment rights. The only restraint on the over-zealous investigator is at a secret summary hearing where you will not be represented. Even if the secret judges do care whether an investigatee's first amendment rights are protected, it is very difficult for them to do so, because they are only told the would-be prosecutor's side of the story.
"Unlike our Founding Fathers, the ALA gives First Amendment Rights to "all individuals," presumably including non-citizen terrorists." LISNews.com commentor Daniel Cornwall pointed out that in fact Jefferson believed that the first amendment should apply to all indviduals "against every government on earth" and that he thought that the constitution was flawed for not stating this more clearly. 12 The Papers of Thomas Jefferson 438, 440 (J. Boyd ed. 1958). Also, while I don't like the idea that terrorists have human rights and may use these rights to cause destruction, it is dangerous to say that terrorists can never have any legal rights. What if you are mistakenly found to be a terrorist, and thereby lose all your legal rights? Including the right to appeal the mistaken terrorist designation? Mistakes happen all the time in any legal system, which is why there need to be procedures - natural justice at the trial level, procedures for appeals and accountability against abuses.
After discussing the ALA's resistance to the Patriot Act, Walfield gives a brief chronicle of the ALA's "left-wing agenda." Included in the ALA's list of sins is campaigning for more openess in government records. Towards the end, there is a mention of the ALA being upset at the destruction and looting of the National Library and Archives of Iraq. Of course this was interpreted that the ALA did not care about the safety of American troops. Forget the fact that the Ministry of Oil had been protected, or that the US Government had been warned of the dangers to Iraqi cultural institutions and chose to ignore them - and their international legal obligations as an occupying force.
I can't ignore Walfield's mention that the ALA's left-wing activism happens despite the organization's tax-exempt 501(c) 3 status. This struck me as a veiled threat which is so typical of these times. Yes, you still have freedom of speech, but if you express unpatriot/lefty views, we will try to punish you until you shut up!