College & Research Libraries News

Washington Hotline

Lynne E. Bradley and Camille Bowman

Appropriations update

The federal government is operating at FY2003 funding levels until the end of January 2004, under a continuing resolution passed on December 9.

This year’s funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (including LSTA) is wrapped-up in the Omnibus Appropriations bill (H.R. 2673). The House returned on December 8, after the Thanksgiving recess, to pass the $820 billion bill by a vote of 242-176, and immediately recessed for the year.

A handful of senators returned on December 9 to take up the measure. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) planned to bring up the bill under unanimous consent (UC). Because Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) objected to the UC (and called for a recorded vote), Frist filed a cloture motion to limit debate on the measure. A vote on the bill is set for 2:30 p.m. on January 20, when Congress returns for its second session. Following official passage of the cloture motion, the Senate adjourned for 2003.

Electronic surveillance, privacy, and you (E-SPY)

ALA remains active on the USA PATRIOT Act and its impact on libraries and library users. Of particular concern has been Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which allows the FBI to get an order from the secret FISA Court for “any tangible thing” sought “in relation to a foreign intelligence investigation,” a very loose and vague standard.

In September 2003, the Attorney General indicated that the Department of Justice, including the FBI, has used “Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act relating to the production of business records . . . zero (0)” times. The Attorney General did not, however, declassify the number of “National Security Letters,” (NSLs) authorized under Section 505 of the Act, used with respect to libraries. Section 505 has received less attention, but is actually of greater concern. This section permits the FBI to get an order, through an internal certification (non-judicial) process, requiring production of transactional records. Because some libraries provide access to e-mail and/or the Internet, the Department of Justice can take a more expansive view of libraries as ISPs and use NSLs to obtain library records.

Lynne E. Bradley is Office of Government Relations director of ALA's Washington Office, e-mail:, Camille Bowman is government relations specialist of ALA's Washington Office, e-mail:

In recent months, a number of bills addressing the library community’s concerns with the Act have been introduced. Detailed information about all of these bills can be found on the ALA Office of Government Relations Web site at: NavigationMenu/Our_Association/Offices/ ALA_Washington/Issues2/Civil_Liberties,_ Intellectual_Freedom,_Privacy/Privacy/ Privacy_Related_Legislation.htm.

Congressional Research Service

On November 11, 2003, 59 organizations, including ALA, and 3 individuals wrote to Representatives Mark Green (R-Wisconsin) and Shays (R-Connecticut) to express their dismay at the discontinuation of the “Index of Congressional Research Service Reports” (a copy of the letter is on the site). On November 21,2003, Rep. Shays introduced H.R. 3630, which would “make available on the Internet, for purposes of access and retrieval by the public, certain information available through tire Congressional Research Service Web site.” Watch for more on this issue.

GPO's model for sustainable growth

GPO’s Public Printer Bruce James has indicated his desire to explore all models for sustaining both GPO Access and tire Federal Depository Library Program, and building on them to ensure an informed public. ALA, through the Committee on Legislation, its Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Government, and the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), are engaging in discussions with GPO to ensure a model that retains and enhances no-fee, unfettered public access to government information, including (but not limited to) through Federal Depository Libraries. ■

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