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17 August 2008

Target Acquired: Freedom of Expression

The Patriot Act is a dangerous government tool to undermine your civil rights and make you a target for criminal investigation for engaging in constitutionally protected conduct. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act was enacted in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center. This legislation was supposedly designed to protect you from a terrorist attack. But, did you know that the Act contains provisions that permit the Department of Justice to secretly require that booksellers and librarians disclose their customers' and patrons' reading, Internet surfing and book-buying habits, merely by making the allegation that the records are relevant to an anti-terrorism investigation? The Act protects the government's secret surveillance of your reading and internet activity by prohibiting librarians and booksellers from telling you about subpoenas for your information. This means you may be the object of an investigation and you would never know about it. The Department of Justice has attempted to quell complaints that The Patriot Act interferes with your constitutional rights by conducting a balancing act between your right to privacy and freedom with the allegation that terrorists use the public libraries in our Country to plan their evil deeds.
Historically, terrorists and spies have used libraries to plan and carry out activities that threaten our national security. If terrorists or spies use libraries, we should not allow them to become safe havens for their terrorist or clandestine activities. The Patriot Act ensures that business records - whether from a library or any other business - can be obtained in national security investigations with the permission of a federal judge. DOJ Website, Dispelling the Myths.

The Constitution of the United States of America protects your right to read any book you want to read. You have the right to hold any idea and to express your ideas no matter how unpopular those ideas may be. You have the right to read and discuss even books, art, and ideas that are deemed to be unpatriotic. The freedom of your thought and ideas as well as the expression of your thoughts and ideas is fundamental to democracy. Your government may not prohibit unpopular or unpatriotic speech solely on the basis that your speech increases the chance a criminal act may be committed by someone, somewhere or at some time in the future. Under The Patriot Act, reading controversial books or doing research about certain topics can provide grounds to begin a criminal investigation. The Department of Justice recently repealed the domestic terrorism surveillance guidelines which were adopted in 1976 to protect the civil rights of anti-war activists who became targets of government investigations because they exercised their constitutional right to criticize the government and its policies. The 1976 guidelines prohibited surveillance of political, religious and any other group unless there was actual evidence of criminal activity. Because librarians and book sellers are prohibited from informing you that they have been served with a subpoena for your internet activity or reading list, criminal investigation of your protected conduct can be conducted in secret. It will be impossible for you to protect yourself from allegations of criminal activity. The secrecy of investigations also prevents the people of the United States from making a determination whether their government is actually investigating terrorism activities instead of wasting your tax dollars on investigations of protected activity.

For more information about your right to free expression, visit these sites:

National Coalition Against Censorship

Anti-Terrorism Investigations

Center for Democracy and Technology

ACLU

First Amendment Center

Freedom Forum

Freedom is more than a word, it is a way of life. Think free. Live free.

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