ACRL

College & Research Libraries News

WASHINGTON HOTLINE

Carol C. Henderson Deputy Director, ALA Washington Office (202) 547-4440; (ALA0025)

WHCLIS. The President signed on August 8 legislation (HJ.Res. 90, now PL 100-382) authorizing the calling of a White House Conference on Library and Information Services to be held by September 30, 1991. Next steps are separate legislation for federal funding of the WHC, and appointment of an advisory committee to assist and advise the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science in planning and conducting the Conference.

FBI. The Federal Bureau of Investigation Library Awareness Program continued to attract criticism in recent months from the media, the library community, and Congress. On June 20, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights held a hearing at which library witnesses said the program to monitor the use of American libraries by Soviet- bloc spies, other foreigners, and "suspicious" people posed a threat to the free flow of information that was greater than the threat of Soviet espionage. Witnesses were C. James Schmidt and Judith Krug, ALA; Duane Webster, Association of Research Libraries; David Bender, Special Libraries Association; Paula Kaufman, Columbia University; and Herbert Foerstel, University of Maryland.

Chairman Don Edwards (D-CA) said the program was "revolutionary in American society," but "we’ve had very little success in getting the FBI to understand that we in Congress are very much concerned about this issue." (Edwards had asked FBI Director Williams Sessions to reexamine the program at an FBI oversight hearing on March 17.) The FBI witness had to be rescheduled but a number of points in the Bureau’s written testimony indicated the program was limited to sci/tech libraries in the New York area, and that occasional interviews with librarians elsewhere in the U.S. were in response to specific investigative leads. However, librarians’ testimony gave specific examples of generalized visits in New York and other locations asking about materials read or subjects searched in databases by foreigners or those with "foreign sounding names."

The rescheduled FBI witness, James H. Geer, Assistant Director of the FBI Intelligence Division, testified on July 13, while the ALA Annual Conference was taking place in New Orleans. The Chronicle of Higher Education for July 20 reported that Geer told the subcommittee that the purpose of the program "is to sensitize librarians to unusual occurrences that might indicate espionage, such as when an agricultural attache seeks information about pulse power, a form of energy used in radar." The Chronicle also reported Geer said the Bureau does not intend to stop seeking information from librarians.

ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair Jim Schmidt’s testimony noted that the FBI’s Library Awareness Program has not been justified and is not being conducted as the Bureau claims, either with respect to geographic or procedural limits. All such efforts to solicit library staff to monitor and report on patron use ought to be stopped, Schmidt continued. Such inquiries violate the privacy rights of library users regarding the materials and services they use. In 38 states and the District of Columbia, the privacy rights of library users are protected by law except under court order or subpoena.

FBI Director William Sessions was questioned about the program at other hearings this spring. On May 17, Sessions said libraries are used for recruiting, targeting, and by hostile foreign intelligence gatherers in a surreptitious fashion. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairing the FBI oversight hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said "the Bureau was utilizing investigative techniques that seemed more likely to harass innocent Americans than to help the Bureau combat crime." Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC), chairing a hearing April 20 on the FBI’s budget, also questioned Sessions about the program, which Hollings likened to attempting to control people’s thoughts.

The ALA Council passed on July 13 a Resolution in Opposition to FBI Library Awareness Program (CD #77.4), condemning this and similar programs, and calling for their immediate cessation. Readers needing further information should see the extensive documentation provided to Council by the Intellectual Freedom Committee. CD #41-41.4 includes testimony from the June 20 hearing, an unclassified version of the FBI report, "The KGB and the Library Target," released at the May 17 hearing, and the transcript of the closed meeting in January of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science with an FBI representative.

Materials prepared by the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom include a chronology, a list of institutions verified to have been visited by the FBI, and a list of the states which have laws protecting the confidentiality of library records. Also included is an OIF-prepared summary of the 46 pages of heavily excised documents about the program released in July by the FBI in response to a lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive and People for the American Way. The documents were initially requested under the Freedom of Information Act in July 1987 by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit public interest scholarly research institute and library in Washington, D.C. ALA also requested the same documentation in October, and filed an additional FOIA request in December.

Copyright © American Library Association

Article Views (Last 12 Months)

No data available

Contact ACRL for article usage statistics from 2010-April 2017.

Article Views (By Year/Month)

2022
January: 0
February: 0
March: 0
April: 0
May: 2
June: 0
July: 0
2021
January: 2
February: 3
March: 2
April: 1
May: 2
June: 1
July: 2
August: 0
September: 0
October: 6
November: 1
December: 0
2020
January: 2
February: 3
March: 2
April: 0
May: 2
June: 2
July: 3
August: 1
September: 1
October: 1
November: 2
December: 3
2019
January: 0
February: 0
March: 0
April: 0
May: 0
June: 0
July: 0
August: 5
September: 4
October: 3
November: 0
December: 3