The USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001. The Act has several provisions that affect libraries:
- It lowers the legal standard for obtaining a search warrant from “probable cause” that a crime is being committed to suspicion that the library information is linked to an ongoing terrorist or intelligence investigation.
- It allows the FBI to get a special search warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, whose proceedings are classified and closed to the public.
- It permits the FBI to use special search warrants to retrieve library usage records of someone who is under investigation of involvement in suspicious activities.
- It overrides state and local privacy laws in the case of FISA search warrants.
- It prohibits the library from notifying the patron under suspicion, the press, or anyone else that an investigation is underway.
- It grants expanded wiretapping authority to federal and state law enforcement agencies that allows monitoring of public computers.
The FBI can retrieve any information about a patron under investigation that the library has. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Books and other materials checked out
- Searches performed on library computers, including Internet sites visited
- Books and other materials borrowed through inter-library loan
- When and where a patron has signed up for library programs or to use library computers, the local history room, etc.
- Notes taken by librarians when helping answer a reference question
It is important to remember that the provisions above apply only to FBI search warrants issued under the USA PATRIOT Act. State and local privacy laws are still in effect for other investigations that are not being performed under the authority of the Act.
To safeguard our patrons’ privacy, takes the following measures:
- Our current public access computer system removes all session data at the end of each user session.
- The library deletes patron data and shreds patron registration cards that have been expired for three years (with fines under $5.00) and six years (fines under $20.00).
If a librarian does not comply with an FBI search warrant issued under the Act, he or she may be charged with contempt of court. No specific penalty is spelled out in the Act.
- Hall Memorial Library employees will immediately refer all investigations to the library director or acting director.
- The library director or full-time employee will immediately consult with the library’s attorney concerning the warrant and notify the chair of the board of trustees.
- Employees and or the director will ask the investigator(s) to show official identification and legal documents including warrants.
- Employees and/or the director will write down the name and identification number listed on said documents
- Employees and/or the director will make a photocopy of the search warrant.
- An attempt will be made to delay execution of the warrant until the director or acting director consults with the library attorney
- If the agent/officer insists on executing the warrant immediately, the staff involved will follow the agent’s directions and provide the material requested.
Adopted December 4th, 2007 by the Board of Trustees
Updated and Approved August 2016