Read any dangerous books lately?
From Scott Rosenberg:
Among many other unfortunate provisions in the Patriot Act, passed in haste and hysteria in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there’s one that’s especially loathsome to American values: It gives the government an unprecedented and scary carte blanche to paw through library and bookstore records to see what you’ve been reading. If you believe that such records might actually help the government nail the next wave of al-Qaida terrorists, then you don’t have to do anything. But if you believe, as I do, that this particular power is useless for that goal — but might prove handy for John Ashcroft and successors should they decide that, for example, citizens who read too many books about subject X might warrant close surveillance — then you should go here and sign the petition by the Campaign for Reader Privacy, a coalition of booksellers, librarians and writers, to push Congress to change this un-American law.
This particular part of the Patriot Act is one of those stealth provisions that simply invites government abuse. Consider: “The FBI may request the records secretly; it is not required to prove that there is ‘probable cause’ to believe the person whose records are being sought has committed a crime; and the bookseller or librarian who receives an order is prohibited from revealing it to anyone except those whose help is needed to produce the records.”