Libraries and the USA PATRIOT Act [Updated August 19, 2005]   [open pdf - 39KB]

"The USA PATRIOT Act, P.L. 107-56, enacted to help track down and punish terrorists and to prevent further terrorism, contains no provisions specifically directed at libraries or their patrons. It has several provisions, however, that might apply in a library context. The most frequently mentioned of these is Section 215 that amends the business record sections of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA). Section 215 is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2005. The House and the Senate have approved bills that would postpone expiration and modify the provisions of Section 215, H.R. 3199 and S. 1389. Before the USA PATRIOT Act, federal authorities, engaged in gathering foreign intelligence information or conducting an investigation of international terrorism, could seek a FISA court order for access to hotel, airline, storage locker, or car rental business records. The businesses to whom the orders were addressed were bound to silence. Section 215 amended the procedure so that in a foreign intelligence or international terrorism investigation federal authorities may obtain a FISA order for access to any tangible item no matter who holds it, including by implication library loan records and the records of library computer use. Although past practices have apparently made the library community apprehensive, the extent to which the authority of Section 215 has been used, if at all, is unclear. Media accounts of federal investigations involving library patrons ordinarily do not distinguish between simple inquiries, grand jury subpoenas, criminal search warrants, FISA physical search orders, and FISA tangible item orders."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RS21441
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
United States. Department of State, Foreign Press Centers, Bureau of Public Affairs: http://www.fpc.state.gov/
Media Type:
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