But while the Patriot Act gives the government important?and limited?new powers, it?s actually being applied only rarely. For example, despite all the complaints from librarians, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced last fall that the federal government has never used Section 215 to search library records. Not once. It?s difficult to understand how Section 215 could be considered abusive of rights when it?s never been used.
But instead of being glad that the law is being judiciously applied, the American Library Association?s executive director said that the lack of warrants proves the law isn?t needed. ?They have demonstrated that there is no need to change the tradition of protecting library patrons? reading records,? Emily Sheketoff sniffed.
Wrong. What the federal government has actually done is prove that it won?t abuse Section 215. But the fact it?s never been used doesn?t prove it?s not needed. As in the Moussaoui case, there may well come a time when we need information, and we?ll be glad we can get it with a judge?s warrant.
We should keep a careful eye out to make sure the Patriot Act isn?t abused, just as we should keep a careful eye on everything the federal government does. But many librarians are stressing out over nothing. Next time, they should do a little research before they get worked up over a sensible reform.