Dave Hoffman (law, Temple) over at the Conglomerate blog, has written a very thoughtful retort to a recent post of mine (cross-posted at PrawfsBlawg and Balkinization) regarding the searching of baggage on NYC subways. I argued that:
According to an NYT article:
Law enforcement officials have made at least 200 formal and informal inquiries to libraries for information on reading material and other internal matters since October 2001, according to a new study that adds grist to the growing debate in Congress over the government’s counterterrorism powers.
In some cases, agents used subpoenas or other formal demands to obtain information like lists of users checking out a book on Osama bin Laden. Other requests were informal – and were sometimes turned down by librarians who chafed at the notion of turning over such material, said the American Library Association, which commissioned the study. . . .
The Bush administration says that while it is important for law enforcement officials to get information from libraries if needed in terrorism investigations, officials have yet to actually use their power under the Patriot Act to demand records from libraries or bookstores. . . .
The study does not directly answer how or whether the Patriot Act has been used to search libraries. The association said it decided it was constrained from asking direct questions on the law because of secrecy provisions that could make it a crime for a librarian to respond. Federal intelligence law bans those who receive certain types of demands for records from challenging the order or even telling anyone they have received it. . . .
The study, which surveyed 1,500 public libraries and 4,000 academic libraries, used anonymous responses to address legal concerns. A large majority of those who responded to the survey said they had not been contacted by any law enforcement agencies since October 2001, when the Patriot Act was passed.
But there were 137 formal requests or demands for information in that time, 49 from federal officials and the remainder from state or local investigators. Federal officials have sometimes used local investigators on joint terrorism task forces to conduct library inquiries. . . .