Sunday, February 24, 2008

Big Brother reading over your shoulder ...

... and this time it's not for national security.

Libertarians and fellow travelers will recall the uproars over the Patriot Act giving law enforcement agencies the right to snoop into your reading habits via your library card or your bookstore purchases.

And, of course, to argue that this constituted the beginning of a slippery slope is to have yourself written off as a Libertarian whacko.

Our law enforcement agencies would never go after our reading habits for anything less that the prevention of another September 11 attack, would they?

So this from libertariansf:

Recently unsealed court records reveal that US Magistrate Stephen Crocker of Wisconsin refused a request from federal prosecutors to issue a subpoena to Amazon.com. Prosecutors wanted to compel the online bookselling giant to reveal the identity of thousands of used book buyers as part of their case against Madison WI public official Robert D'Angelo, who was accused of running an online business from his office without reporting the income [Oh my! Trying to hide personal property from government thieves!] . The judge ruled that the First Amendment protects the right to keep reading habits private. Crocker wrote, "Well founded or not, rumors of an Orwellian federal criminal investigation into the reading habits of Amazon's customers could frighten countless potential customers into canceling planned online book purchases, now and perhaps forever... The subpoena is troubling because it permits the government to peek into the reading habits of specific individuals without their knowledge or permission... It is an unsettling and un-American scenario to envision federal agents nosing through the reading lists of law-abiding citizens while hunting for evidence against somebody else." Crocker arranged a compromise whereby Amazon would send a letter to 24,000 customers asking them to voluntarily contact prosecutors if they so desired.


Thankfully, there are still apparently some judges out there who haven't lost their copy of the US Constitution.

A pity that the same cannot be said for many law enforcement agencies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Think my Che Guevara and Ludwig Von Misses books would qualify? Executive Over-reach... come on law enforcement guys look at the young middle eastern guy buying the Book "The 40 Virgins Waiting For Me In Heaven After Taregting the Great Satan" not the brainy free inquiry folks and libertarians who are going to save your ass.