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How does the PATRIOT Act impact my hometown library?

Under Section 215 of the federal USA Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56), records of books and other materials you borrow from or use in this library may be obtained by federal agents. This law also prohibits librarians from informing you if records about you have been obtained by federal agents. Questions about this policy should be directed to Attorney General of the United States of America, Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20530.

Section 214: Access to Records Under
Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA)
Allows an FBI agent to obtain a search warrant for “any tangible thing,” which can include books, records, papers, floppy disks, data tapes, and computers with hard drives.

  • Permits the FBI to compel production of library circulation records, Internet use records, and registration information stored in any medium.
  • Does not require the agents to demonstrate “probable cause,” the existence of specific facts to support the belief that a crime has been committed or that the items sought are evidence of a crime. Instead, the agent only needs to claim that he believes that the records he wants may be related to an ongoing investigation related to terrorism or intelligence activities, a very low legal standard.
  • Libraries or librarians served with a search warrant issued under FISA rules may not disclose, under penalty of law, the existence of the warrant or the fact that records were produced as a result of the warrant. A patron cannot be told that his or her records were given to the FBI or that he or she is the subject of an FBI investigation.
  • Overrides state library confidentiality laws protecting library records.

Codified in law 50 U.S.C., 1862.

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