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In its editorial, the Voice of the Times (reprinted in the Juneau Empire Jan. 5), stated that the Patriot Act allows the FBI to "check on what books a suspect may have checked out of the library." Unfortunately, section 215 of that act (which can be found at 50 U.S.C. 1861) allows the FBI to obtain a person's records (library, business, medical, etc.) if those records are "for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."
There is no statutory requirement that the person whose records are sought actually be suspected of anything. For instance, if the FBI believed that a terrorist was using the name "John Smith," the records of all John Smiths could be obtained because they are "for an investigation" into terrorism. Similarly, if the FBI believed that terrorists might be interested in a certain book, the records of all who bought that book, or borrowed it from the library, could be obtained "for an investigation" into terrorism.
This is extremely broad authority to give the government, especially since those producing the documents are prohibited from disclosing the FBI's request forever - not just for a year or so, which might be reasonable. I am grateful to Sen. Murkowski for her efforts to protect our privacy.