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The ALA Library: Terrorist Sanctuary By: Paul Walfield
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, May 08, 2003


The American Library Association has signed up for battle in the War on Terrorism; unfortunately, it has signed up to fight the Bush Administration and the USA PATRIOT Act. Siding with civil libertarians against public safety is just the ALA’s most recent leftist act of political defiance. However, this is their most corrosive stance for the well-being of all Americans, undermining and sabotaging public efforts to stave off terrorism..

Part of the war on terror is learning how America’s enemies work. It was found that terrorists like to use computer terminals in our libraries to communicate and do research. Soon after the attack on September 11, 2001, the Houston Chronicle reported, "Visitors and library employees in Delray Beach and Hollywood remember seeing some of the men who are suspected of carrying out the attacks." As a result, "FBI agents have subpoenaed library records in south Florida as they attempted to piece together where the suspects went and whom they communicated with in the months leading up [to] the assaults on the World Trade Center and Pentagon."

With this in mind, the elected representatives are paid to protect us added Section 215 to the USA PATRIOT Act.

Section 215 merely reworks Title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, and states that if the FBI believes terrorist activity is going on, it may make an application to a judge who can grant an order for the production of a patron's records.

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.

While the people at the airlines and airports, flight attendants and pilots have chosen not to protest and fight the increased security where they work, the librarians have decided to take a stand against American security in the name of "freedom" - for terrorists. 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. In the ALA's policy manual, Section 52.4 states:

"52.4 Confidentiality of Library Records

"The ethical responsibilities of librarians, as well as statutes in most states and the District of Columbia, protect the privacy of library users. Confidentiality extends to 'information sought or received, and materials consulted, borrowed, acquired,' and includes database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, interlibrary loan records, and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, or services."

The ALA then recommends libraries state that "records shall not be made available to any agency of state, federal, or local government except pursuant to such process, order, or subpoena as may be authorized under the authority of, and pursuant to, federal, state, or local law relating to civil, criminal, or administrative discovery procedures or legislative investigatory power. Resist the issuance or enforcement of any such process, order, or subpoena until such time as a proper showing of good cause has been made in a court of competent jurisdiction."

About 225 libraries across the country have chosen not to cooperate with the American government in their quest to thwart terrorists before they strike again. On April 4, 2003, the New York Times ran an article explaining the position of a number of libraries. For instance, the "patriots" at the Santa Cruz, California, library have chosen to shred all records of their patrons book use on a daily basis. Anne M. Turner, director of the library system explained, "The basic strategy now is to keep as little historical information as possible."

She did not explain that the law which allows the government to know what she knows and everyone else at the library knows about their patrons, limits the sharing of that knowledge and prohibits the government from doing anything that would infringe on an individual’s First Amendment right. 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 - the same government which needs that information to protect the folks in Santa Cruz, the librarians and all Americans, from the terrorists who would grant them no rights.

The Patriot Act also requires that no one at the library tell anyone if the FBI has obtained a patron's library record. To get around that, the 10 branches of the Santa Cruz libraries have posted signs giving visitors a: "WARNING: Although the Santa Cruz Library makes every effort to protect your privacy, under the federal USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107-56), records of the books and other materials you borrow from this library may be obtained by federal agents. That federal law prohibits library workers from informing you if federal agents have obtained records about you. Questions about this policy should be directed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20530." The librarians conveniently forgot to mention under what circumstances the Feds could obtain the requested information and that only "for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution." It seems the librarians would like you to believe it is the government that is to be feared, and not the terrorists.

Then the folks at Santa Cruz went a step further.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "chief librarian Anne Turner found a way to get around the Act’s prohibition of telling anyone that the FBI requested records from her library, ‘At each board meeting I tell them we have not been served by any (search warrants)."’ She cleverly pointed out, "In any months that I don't tell them that, they'll know."

The librarians in northern California are taking their cues from the ALA. On the American Library Association website is a prominent display of lawsuits filed against the Federal government in an effort to thwart the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act. This documents the role of the Freedom to Read Foundation. The ALA proudly displays the virtues of the Foundation, which serves "to support the right of libraries to include in their collections and make available any work which they may legally acquire" - including pornography (see below).

Unlike our Founding Fathers, the ALA gives First Amendment Rights to "all individuals," presumably including non-citizen terrorists. For the ALA, terrorists have a right to read, research and prepare their activities in the peace and comfort of a library free from interference by the Feds.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on March 10, 2003, "the leaders of the 64,000-member American Library Association passed a resolution in January calling the Patriot Act provisions ‘a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users."’

ALA president Mitch (Maurice) Freedman spun the Act as a vast right-wing conspiracy. "Looking for terrorists in a public library is just part of an overall strategy to diminish the civil liberties of American citizens," he averred. To Freedman, the slaughter of Americans by terrorists on American soil is simply not sufficient to warrant implementation of the Patriot Act.

This is only the most recent act in the ALA’s long history of "extracurricular" activity. In 1953, at the height of the Cold War and America’s determination to stand up to totalitarian regimes, the ALA issued their "Freedom to Read" statement, resisting federal calls to loyalty.

In 1981, the librarians adopted a resolution breathlessly condemning the federal government for withdrawing some OSHA pamphlets as "blatant censorship, and unconstitutional, and an unconscionable violate [sic] of the people's right to know and be informed."

In 1984, the ALA passed a resolution condemning the United States for withdrawing from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). "The ALA deeply regrets the decision of the President of the United States, on recommendation of the Secretary of State, to issue notice of the intention of the United States to withdraw from membership in UNESCO effective December 31, 1984."

The United States according to the Heritage Foundation, withdrew its support from UNESCO, "to protest the organization's growing politicization and anti-Western bias, rampant budgetary mismanagement, and advocacy of policies that undermine freedom of the press and free markets. A particularly divisive issue was UNESCO's advocacy of a "new world information order" (NWIO) to counter an alleged pro-Western bias in global news agencies; specifically, the organization sought the licensing of journalists, the creation of an international code of press ethics, and increasing government control over the media." The librarians on the other hand, believe they are "qualified to evaluate the UNESCO program," and "affirmed on December 16, 1983, that continued U.S. membership in UNESCO is in the national interest."

The ALA does oppose "militarism," though. Section 52.5.3 of the ALA’s policy manual requires libraries to have "a full range of alternatives… for those young persons who are facing the prospect of conscription."

The ALA also believes in overriding pesky federal authorities In 1993, the ALA adopted the Godort (Government Documents Round Table) Resolution regarding the classification of U.S. government information. The ALA urged then-president Clinton:

reduce drastically the scope of secrecy within the Federal government,

review all forms of security classification in the agencies of the government,

institute a systematic declassification system to ensure future public access, and

prohibit restrictions on public use of government information solely on the basis that it is sensitive but unclassified. . . .

The ALA further demanded that the government "establish mechanisms to ensure outside independent review of agency classification decisions." The ALA it appears is demanding the overseeing of the governmental decision making process when it comes to classified materials.

ALA librarians are not the quiet, unassuming stereotypes you see on TV and in the movies. For example, in 1998, the ALA voiced their opposition to the bombing of Iraq. The Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) is the self-proclaimed "conscience of the ALA." The SRRT "is a unit within the American Library Association. It works to make ALA more democratic and to establish progressive priorities not only for the Association, but also for the entire profession. Concern for human and economic rights was an important element in the founding of SRRT and remains an urgent concern today. SRRT believes that libraries and librarians must recognize and help solve social problems and inequities in order to carry out their mandate to work for the common good and bolster democracy." ALA executive director Mary Ghikas stated "The Action Council of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association voices its opposition to the planned US-led attacks on the nation of Iraq." The librarians seemed unconcerned that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein had made inspections of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction sites impossible, or that Iraq had been obligated t9o do so under the cease-fire agreement following the first Gulf War.

In June of 2002, the ALA under the auspices of their SRRT section, took sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, condemning Israel. The ALA demanded that the United States and other nations do all they can to "prevent further destruction of libraries and cultural resources" in Palestinian territories by Israel. The December 2002 SRRT newsletter condemned, "the destruction of the facilities in the universities and colleges of the West Bank." When confronted with the fact that any destruction at the time took place during a war (the so-called intifada by the Palestinians against Israel) the ALA’s President Mitch Freedman responded by saying, "ALA policy does not differentiate between deliberate or unintentional destruction. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, justified or unjustified, the destruction of libraries, library collections, and property [is deplored by the ALA]." No condemnation of terrorists was made by the ALA, just a condemnation of Israel’s defensive measures. To underscore his amti-Israeli views, President Freedman screened a documentary about Noam Chomsky and a speech by Amy Goodman, the far-left hostess of the Democracy Now radio show, at this January’s Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia.

On March 5, 2003, the ALA argued before the Supreme Court of the United States that the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was a very bad idea. So far, as of March 2003, our librarians have spent 1.7 million dollars in fighting the implementation of CIPA in the courts. CIPA mere states that libraries should filter internet access to eliminate " visual depictions that are obscene, contain child pornography or are harmful to minors." The librarians feel that shielding children from obscenity is a breach of their commitment to our country’s youth. How many parents are aware that our librarians, instead of wanting to protect our children from obscenity, choose to fight against that protection?

The ALA’s left-wing agenda presents itself more clearly on its website. The site provides links to "Alternative Resources on the U.S. ‘War Against Terrorism.’" These links include Antiwar.com, MichaelMoore.com, StopTheWar.com, WarResistersLeague.com, and to a series of petitions opposing America's response to terrorism and denouncing the real threat to liberty: Jerry Falwell.

Browsing the SRRT website from within ALA’s, you are directed to links that explore "Cuban Library tours and Conferences." To show their solidarity, "this year’s Libraries tour ... (will visit) with librarians, staff and Library Directors from public, academic, special and school libraries. Speak with the staff and experience what their working situations are like... find out for yourself the real Cuba." No mention of the possibility that Cubans, in Cuba have much to fear if they were to tell any outsider about "the real Cuba." Other attractions include "optional opportunities for music, dance and theatre"; evidently the tour of the island's gulags is not on the agenda, although such a stop would give these timid librarians an unforgettable glimpse of "the real Cuba."

There are also links to "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgendered Round Table," among others, most notably are links all beginning with the word ""progressive."

In the war against Iraq, the librarians were beside themselves, "The American Library Association grieves for and deplores the catastrophic losses to Iraq's cultural heritage that have already occurred with the destruction of the National Library Archives and the Islamic library. Cultural heritage is as important as oil. Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy and are vital resources in the re-establishment of a civil society. We urge the administration to ensure that in the future the necessary resources will be made available to prevent further catastrophes," said ALA President Maurice J. (Mitch) Freedman.

The ALA declared on their website, "The National Library and Archives of Iraq and the principal Islamic library were destroyed last week by looters and arsonists. Reports indicated that the libraries were unguarded at the time of their destruction." For the librarians, not risking American lives to protect Iraq’s libraries during the war was unconscionable.

All this has taken place despite the ALA’s tax-exempt 501(c)3 status.

One wonders if the ALA’s corporate sponsors and members are fully aware of the goings on at the Association’s annual meetings. The ALA website describes the 2002 Annual Conference’s "strong lineup of speakers. At the Opening General Session, art critic Robert Hughes delivered a scathing denunciation of the ‘patriotic correctness’ unleashed in the United States by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and a call to librarians to ‘guard your liberties!’ Said Hughes: "To confine the contents of a library in any way is to commit a kind of vandalism."

Recent Academy Award winner and political activist and author Michael Moore "thanked librarians for rescuing his latest book, Stupid White Men (Harper Collins), which the publisher had slated for cancellation in the face of the patriotic zeal set off by September 11. An onslaught of e-mails from members of the library profession convinced the publisher to release it, and the book went on to top the bestseller lists," also from the ALA website, "Moore… appeared in support of incoming ALA President Maurice Freedman’s Campaign for America’s Librarians presidential initiative and the work under way by his Special Presidential Task Force on Better Salaries and Pay Equity for All Library Workers."

Another prominently placed link and excerpt on the ALA’s website is entitled, "FBI in Your Library," and it quotes a public service announcement by the Ad Council stating, "A man approaches a librarian to ask for help finding a text. ‘These books are no longer available,’ she replies, in a pinched, Peter Lorre-like voice. ‘May I have your name please?’ A couple of suited thugs take the library patron away." The ad is scheduled to run on Independence Day, July 4, 2003, and is intended to expose the ominous ramifications inherent in a law, which by definition targets only terrorists. The ALA link then takes you to an article in the "Village Voice" from September 2002, entitled, "Things we lost in the fire," depicting America’s transformation into a fascist state. However the article does correctly state that "there aren't yet any goons stalking the stacks," nevertheless, Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the Washington office of the American Library Association adds, "But under the USA Patriot Act, law enforcement officials can force librarians (and booksellers) to hand over records of who checked out what books, and what Web sites they visited." In other words, the ALA is drawing its swords against windmills, not reality. Then again, the ALA spokesperson views the FBI as "goons," but declines to use such euphemisms for the terrorists who are in fact "stalking the stacks" in our libraries.

Vermont congressman Bernie Sanders is according to his own biography, "a Socialist elected as an independent since 1990 but treated as a Democrat in the House." Sanders has introduced a bill, known as the Freedom to Read Protection Act, which would exempt libraries and booksellers from Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The ALA heartily endorses the new bill which was introduced on March 6, 2003.

The hatred, the mistrust by some Americans for our government has led some of the "progressives," to behave in a manner that undermines America’s Homeland Security. 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.

The ALA under the guise of protecting freedom jeopardizes all of our freedoms, even our lives.


Paul Walfield is a freelance writer and member of the State Bar of California with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and post-graduate study in behavioral and analytical psychology. He resided for a number of years in the small town of Houlton, Maine, and is now a California attorney. Paul can be contacted at paul.walfield@cox.net


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