Libraries and National Security Law: An Examination of the USA Patriot Act

Progressive Librarian, Vol. 25, Summer 2005

16 Pages Posted: 17 May 2006


In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, legislation entitled Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (known by it's acronym, the USA PATRIOT Act) was passed by Congress. Nearly as soon as the PATRIOT ACT was passed, people expressed concern over some of its provisions. This paper examines the PATRIOT Act, both in light of its historical predecessors in the field of national security law, as well as in its effects upon libraries. This paper examines some of the national security statutes which have impacted libraries and library-related concerns over the years. Though the PATRIOT Act follows a well-established historical path in terms of the activities it seeks to regulate, it deviates in critical ways that call into question its constitutional validity. This paper analyzes the PATRIOT Act in terms of its ramifications in the areas of free speech and free expression, and will conclude with an examination of the measures that libraries, Congress, and library sympathetic nonprofits are taking as a result of the PATRIOT Act.

Keywords: National Security, Libraries, Right of Privacy, American Civil Liberties Union, Patriot Act, USA Patriot Act of 2001, Smith Act of 1940, Internal Security Act of 1950, McCarran Act, Section 215, Counter Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO, National Security, FISA Court

JEL Classification: K30, K40, K42, H56, K49, Z00

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Heather A., Libraries and National Security Law: An Examination of the USA Patriot Act. Progressive Librarian, Vol. 25, Summer 2005, Available at SSRN:

Heather A. Phillips (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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