The Chains of the Constitution and Legal Process in the Library: A Post-Patriot Reauthorization Act Assessment

57 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2008

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 12, 2008


Since the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, controversy has raged over nearly every provision. The controversy has been particularly intense over provisions that affect the patrons of libraries. This article follows those Patriot Act provisions that affect libraries, and reviews how they have been interpreted, how the Patriot Reauthorization Acts have changed them, and what government audits and court affidavits reveal about the use and misuse of the Patriot Act. The efforts of librarians and others opposed to the Patriot Act have had an effect, both legislatively and judicially, in changing and challenging the Patriot Act. Because libraries are such a potent symbol of democratic openness, the effect of the Patriot Act on libraries has acted in the public mind as a microcosm of the broader problems with the implementation of the Patriot Act. The public's discomfort with the civil liberties implications of the Patriot Act has turned out to be justified, as every agency that has reviewed the implementation of the Patriot Act has concluded that the government has not been able to maintain an appropriate balance between the need to protect civil liberties and the need to prevent terrorist acts. The government's list of domestic terrorist acts that have been prevented or punished is not inspiring: the entire panoply of tools authorized by the Patriot Act has not done much more than stop some home-grown right wing fringe groups and ecoterrorists. In light of the evidence of abuse of civil liberties and the questionable constitutionality of many of the Patriot Act's provisions, this paper suggests that the time for vigorous advocacy has not passed and that further legislative changes need to be made.

Keywords: Patriot Act, Reauthorizations Acts, legal process, domestic terrorism, freedom to read

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Mart, Susan Nevelow, The Chains of the Constitution and Legal Process in the Library: A Post-Patriot Reauthorization Act Assessment (March 12, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Susan Nevelow Mart (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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