Jim Hightower

Invading your Library Records

You can trust your government, right? That’s what the Bushites told us and the Congress in 2001, when they rushed into law their USA Patriot Act, which included Section 215, a provision allowing the FBI to seize our personal library records without even getting a search warrant. Trust us, they said—we won’t misuse this autocratic, un-American power of intrusion into people’s privacy.

You could ask a library consortium in Connecticut about the value of this assurance. This group was stunned to receive an FBI demand to turn over its records on the reading habits and Internet use of some of its patrons. Under the expanded law, such executive subpoenas are issued without a judge’s approval—basically, the FBI writes a letter to itself authorizing its agents to seize the material, without specifying any charges of wrongdoing by the library patrons. While you could ask the Connecticut library about this invasion, it could not respond, for the law also permanently bars any library “from disclosing to any person that the FBI has sought or obtained access to information or records.” This is the stuff of a police-state—government agents can grab your records and gag your librarians!

The Connecticut case is especially important—it’s the first confirmed instance of the FBI using the Patriot Act to get library records. The Bushites had claimed that they have never used Section 215, calling critics of the provision “hysterical.” But librarians are no-nonsense people who dig out facts. In a survey of its members, the American Library Association found that government agents have asked for the records of library patrons more than 200 times since the law passed. To fight the liberty-busters, call the Library Association: 1-800-545-2433.


Won’t you give? Water pumps are needed, as are school supplies, and so much more. We know that you’ll come through, for the American people are phenomenally generous.

This is not a plea for charitable donations to help rebuild our country’s devastated Gulf Coast, but—get ready to be whopper-jawed—a desperate plea by Bush & Company for Americans to make donations to their favorite cause: Rebuilding Iraq!

You might recall that the Bushites originally told us that reconstruction would cost us taxpayers no more than $1.7 billion. But the tab has now topped $30 billion, for which we’ve gotten very little progress. So, in addition to throwing more tax dollars at the problem, W.’s crack team of problem solvers has now set up an Internet fundraising operation asking that we also divert our charitable giving to Iraq.

They’re calling this a public-private partnership to give the American people “a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq.” Excuse us, George, but We the People have already “donated.” We’ve given the lives of some 2,000 American troops and more than $210 billion from our public treasury to your war of lies, not to mention the sacrifices of the severely wounded or the severe damage that our nation’s reputation has suffered. Unfortunately for the Bushites, the timing of their charitable appeal could not have been worse. A new poll shows that more than 50 percent of Americans are either somewhat or very worried that Iraq is draining away money that’s needed here at home. Also, 90 percent, including a majority of Republicans, would oppose cuts in education, health care, and other domestic programs to continue financing Bush’s war. A news report notes that, so far, W.’s charity drive for Iraq has brought in $39. I wonder if even a dime of that came from him?


An outrageous war of lies rages in Iraq: Nearly 2,000 American troops have died there, Iraq itself is spiraling down into civil war and theocracy, a growing majority of Americans see Bush’s policy for the disastrous deceit that it is. Grassroots America is alive with a burgeoning peace movement. But where are the congressional Democrats? Rather than standing up to the ideological extremism of the Bushites and giving the public a rallying point for anti-war action, the Beltway Democrats are just sitting there, quiet and motionless. They say they fear that opposing Bush might make them appear “weak on war.” What about weak on peace? Weak on principle, on integrity, on leadership, on political backbone? The majority of Americans now oppose the war and believe it has made us less secure. Whatever happened to the notion that at least one party in Congress should represent the people’s will? Luckily, many Democrats are not waiting on their weak-kneed “leaders.” Senator Russ Feingold, for example, is out front for bringing the troops home. Rep. Lynn Woosley has also stepped up. Her amendment calling for an exit strategy drew 123 Democratic votes (and five Republicans), and she is holding unofficial hearings on Capitol Hill to debate withdrawal from Bush’s deadly quagmire. State Democratic parties are taking action. Arizona recently became the seventh state party to call both for bringing our troops home and fully funding veterans benefits. A new group called Progressive Democrats of America is organizing at the grassroots to put the kick back in the Democratic donkey. To connect with them, call 602-373-6990.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.

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Published at 12:00 am CST