Home » Arts » Who’s Reading Over Your Shoulder?

Notes


Stamp out starving writers, buy their books!


We think you'll find something interesting here. There's lots to choose from. These posts just go on and on, backward through time. If you'd like to know whenever we post something new, you can get a feed from Critical Pages. If you type our address and add /feed/ at the end, that will do it. That's simply criticalpages.com/feed/ and you're on your way.

Who’s Reading Over Your Shoulder?

Visitors to Critical Pages typically enjoy libraries and book stores. So we should warn you that our Congress recently voted to allow the government to search bookstore and library records of people who are not suspected of criminal acts or terrorism.

Spy

Your Government Spy

To be precise, Congress merely allowed the government to continue doing what it’s been doing since 2001 when the Patriot Act was first passed. It came up for reauthorization and Congress reauthorized the whole damn thing, even those parts which invade the privacy of ordinary non-criminal citizens. So if you take out a library book, or buy a book at a bookstore, you might keep that in mind. Maybe you’d like to read about Islamic religious law, or about the safety features of US nuclear power plants, or US railways, or interesting sexual preferences, or AIDS, or impotence in older men or pregnancy problems of older women. And maybe you would have liked to think that those concerns were your own very private business, not open to your government.

Neither the House nor the Senate spent much time considering amendments to the Patriot reauthorization bill, and it passed both chambers handily.

Naturally, writers as well as readers are concerned about this. PEN American Center is comprised of 3,400 Professional Members who represent the most distinguished writers, translators, and editors in the United States.  And PEN had this to say:  “Reader privacy advocates take some comfort from Attorney General Eric Holder’s promise in December that the FBI will not use the full power of the Patriot Act to search bookstore and library records. The Patriot Act gives the government the right to secretly search the records of anyone who is “relevant” to a terrorism investigation.  However, in a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Holder promised the government would voluntarily restrict its searches of bookstores and libraries to the records of people who are actually suspected of terrorism and people who are known to them.

The Campaign for Reader Privacy was organized in 2004 by the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center. Its goal is to ensure that Americans can purchase and borrow books without fear that the government is reading over their shoulder. For more information, visit www.readerprivacy.org

 

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.