CCLE Actions |
1731, sixty years before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution,
Benjamin Franklin founded the first library in America. As evidenced by
the First Amendment, the founders of our nation showed their respect for
the power of the published word by protecting its creation and
dissemination. Early library founders were aware of the tension between
personal freedom and governmental control. Thomas Jefferson, whose
personal library became the core of the Library of Congress, wrote
“There are rights which it is useless to surrender to the government and
which governments have yet always been found to invade. These are the
rights of thinking and publishing our thoughts by speaking or writing . .
.the right of personal freedom.”
October 25, 2001, Congress approved the USA Patriot Act, which, among
other threats to civil liberties, rescinds protection of “any tangible
things” that could be useful to an investigation of terrorist or
intelligence activities. Librarians immediately recognized the threat this
law would pose to maintaining confidentiality of library patrons’
reading records or computer usage logs. Worse still, the Act restricts
librarians from disclosing the FBI’s presence, the production of patron
records, or the surveillance of library computers once it has occurred.
Thus, the public has only recently learned that intensified federal
monitoring of public libraries is in fact taking place across the country.
FBI’s library surveillance creates an atmosphere of secrecy and
surveillance that is guaranteed to have chilling repercussions on the
cherished climate of intellectual freedom and inquiry so central to our
nation. Government surveillance of the books we read trains one to
self-censor, thereby stifling creativity and free inquiry. While the First
Amendment bars the government from banning books, the library surveillance
provisions of the USA Patriot Act circumvent the protections of the First
Amendment by threatening to turn readers into suspects. Intimidating
readers in such a manner is, in effect, controlling what we read and how
we think. Just as the right to publish information is expressly
protected by the First Amendment, greater protection should be given to
the corollary right to access published information.
Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) is a nonprofit public
education, law, and policy center working in the public interest to foster
intellectual freedom and cognitive liberty—the right of each individual to
think independently and use the full spectrum of his or her mind. The CCLE
contends that freedom
of thought and the freedom to read are intertwined.
Reader’s Rights Project,
the CCLE intends to examine library surveillance as a stricture of
intellectual freedom, and focus law, policy and educational attention on
the fundamental rights of readers to freely access information.
Readers' Rights Project s
public awareness of reader’s rights through dissemination of
information at local and regional libraries;
attention to the larger implications of surveillance on individual
public library users;
with other organizations who have an interest in First Amendment
rights and civil liberties of readers in general, and public library
information concerning the actual scope of the FBI’s library
surveillance program (H.R. 3162, Sec. 215); Collect comments from
citizens who believe they have been investigated or discriminated
against as a result of their reading;
legal rights of readers under the USA Patriot Act, and produce an
informative pamphlet explaining the terms of the USA Patriot Act
regarding library surveillance and the rights readers may have.