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web posted April 8, 2002

Law may impede rights

A little known provision of the new anti-terrorism law may make it easier for FBI agents to walk into public libraries and search records and computers for signs of subversive activity.

But don't bother asking your local librarian if anyone has been peeking in the files or checking the computers. The law says they can't talk about searches - not to you, not to the press, not to their congressmen and not to each other.

Librarians fear the new law could be abused and no one would know about it.

''It just doesn't feel right,'' said Cindy Brown, director of Boone County Public Library in Kentucky.

''I have a problem that there could be an investigation, but nobody's supposed to know there's been an investigation. You expect that in a Third World country, not in America today.''

The American Library Association shares that concern and has offered legal help to any local library presented with an FBI search warrant as part of a hunt for terrorists. A few libraries did ask for help in the weeks after the law was passed in October, but the association couldn't provide details - it's not allowed.

The regulation is part of the USA PATRIOT Act, an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

Passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorism attack on the United States, the act was designed to give FBI agents new and stronger tools to investigate and fight terrorism.

But critics have said it leaves room for abuse.

Section 215, which covers business record searches, has left librarians and defenders of civil liberties feeling queasy.

''Our freedom, guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, depends on a thorough system of checks and balances to prevent the government from overstepping its authority,'' said Jeff Vessels, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. ' The law requires agents to get a court order and the searches must be related to terrorism. Ms. Krug said the investigation must be into the actions of a non-citizen.

But the portion of the law that forbids anyone saying anything about the investigation makes it hard to assure that the agents are adhering to the regulations, she said.

Vessels said he expects the ''gag law'' and other provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act to face court tests.

Under the old laws, the library's lawyer could challenge a court order in court and ask for modifications in the scope of the search. Under the new law, the search is conducted almost immediately, with scant time for court challenges, Ms. Krug said.

The searches could include circulation records as well as Internet use at the library.

In Greater Cincinnati, circulation records won't yield much. Information is retained only to keep track of where the library's books are. When a book is returned, most libraries keep the borrower's name on file for only a few days - long enough track the last borrower if the book was damaged.

Ms. Krug said the American Library Association has urged libraries across the country to make sure circulation records expire when books are returned.

If you read something that leads to illegal or unsocial behavior, there are laws to deal with that behavior, she said.

''What goes into your head should not be reason for people to take action. We are a nation that takes action based on your actions, not on what you think or believe,'' Ms. Krug said.

Campbell County Library Director Mike Doellman is concerned about the PATRIOT Act's gag order and about searches of the library's computers for business records and to trace Internet use.

But though an institution may not keep formal records of Internet usage, Doellman said, chances are information can be retrieved from library computers.

''If you think you have privacy on the Internet, you're fooling yourself,'' he said.

''I don't think the general public knows how the Internet works. I don't think most people understand how the new laws work. But I think we have to find out.''

Caught out by cellphone's secret message

Mark Lundy was bugged with a locator beacon ... just like the one millions of New Zealanders carry. The tracking device was so powerful it could pinpoint his location to within several hundred metres.

It was a cellphone.

Evidence in Lundy's double-murder trial showed how police traced where he was on the night of the killings by scanning through cellphone records. The records not only showed when and to whom Lundy made calls - but where he was when the calls were made.

And a cellphone will pinpoint its owner's location even if it is not in use.

As long as it is turned on, it lets the telephone network know where it is about once every 20 minutes.

The information is recorded, enabling authorities to later trace where a cellphone - and, probably, it's owner - were at certain times.

In Australia, civil liberties groups complained when police admitted that they could track people if they were carrying "implanted transmitters".

In some cases, even streets could be identified but the accuracy was affected by interference from buildings, topography, and other cellphone traffic.

Police in Switzerland admitted they had been secretly tracking the movements of more than one million cellphone users.

In New Zealand, telephone companies store the information about the country's 2.3 million cellphones for up to seven years. Police and intelligence agencies can get that information with a search warrant.

A Telecom spokesman said April 1 that the company received about 12,000 requests a year for official access to information about cellphone, landline and internet users a year.

A Vodafone spokeswoman could not give a figure but said the company dealt with the police daily.

The Telecom spokesman said the information was not specific about the cellphone's location.

It could tell only the general area, but sometimes this could be useful in criminal investigations.

During the Lundy trial, evidence was given that on the morning after the murders, Lundy drove from within the reception area of Telecom's Johnsonville cellphone transmitter to Palmerston North's Tremaine Ave in 1hr 23min.

Records also showed that Lundy's 5.30pm call to his wife on the night of the murder went through the Petone transmitter and finished at 5.38pm.

Privacy Commissioner Bruce Slane is receiving public submissions on a proposed code that would limit what companies and agencies can do with cellphone information and how long the data could be kept.

U.S. won't brand Arafat terrorist

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States does not consider Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a terrorist because he is the recognized leader of the Palestinian people and has worked with Israel and the United States toward peace in the Middle East.

"When this current terrible crisis we are in right now passes — the Israeli army finishes its sweeps of these various cities and towns — we will be right back to seeking a political solution. And that political solution will need two parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, and right now Chairman Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian movement. And so, we are trying to keep our channels open to him, we are talking to him, we are trying to get him into the Tenet work plan," Powell said April 2, referring to the cease fire plan proposed by Central Intelligence Agency Director George J. Tenet.

One day previous, President Bush called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to halt suicide bomb attacks in Israel and the West Bank, but declined to say that Arafat is harboring terrorists.

"There will never be peace so long as there is terror, and all of us should fight terror. I'd like to see Chairman Arafat denounce the terror," Bush said during a meeting with New York's governor and New York City's mayor.

"Suicide bombings in the name of religion is simple terror," he added.

Bush said that Arafat has made past efforts to negotiate peaceful settlement, and has signed on in principle to peace-keeping proposals put forth by U.S. Special Envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni, who remained in the region through the worst violence since the latest conflict began almost 19 months ago. Therefore, Bush concluded, Arafat does not fit into the same category as other leaders who support terrorism.

However, Palestinian militants continue to inflict damage on Israeli property and kill innocent civilians. And in a chilling discovery, Fox News obtained a leaflet passed around in Palestinian communities calling for attacks on U.S. interests.

It is the first time in this conflict that Palestinian groups have called for attacks on U.S. targets. Addressing their appeal to the Islamic and Arabic world, the leaflet quotes from the Quran, repeating a passage frequently used by Osama bin Laden: "Kill them wherever you find them and kick them out from the places that they have expelled you from."

Nonetheless, separately from the president, the State Department criticized Israel's drive into Ramallah.

"We are greatly concerned" about civilian casualties and Israel should "carefully consider the consequences" of its military actions, spokesman Philip Reeker said.

Agent says NBA's Malone mulling political run

Utah Jazz star forward Karl Malone, known to fans as "the Mailman," is considering running for governor of Arkansas once he retires from professional basketball, his agent told CNN on April 2.

Karl MaloneMalone, a Republican, has no immediate plans to retire but has often discussed his plans to return to Arkansas, where he owns a large cattle ranch, to seek political office, according to Dwight Manley, Malone's agent.

Malone began fueling speculation of a possible political career last year after a visit to the White House.

"He's a natural leader," said Manley. "He's got a lot of ideas, and this is what he says he wants to do."

Malone, a two-time NBA most valuable player, has played for the Jazz since 1985 and has occasionally dabbled in Republican politics.

He campaigned in Iowa in 1999 for Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's short-lived presidential bid and headlined a 2000 fund-raiser with National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston for a Utah congressman. Malone is an NRA member and a vocal gun rights supporter.

He has never held political office.

Newspapers in Salt Lake City have speculated that Malone may run for governor of Utah as early as 2004, but Manley said that is unlikely.

"I don't know that he'll retire by 2004. He said he wants to be governor of Arkansas. He wants to get back closer to his roots," said Manley.

Malone was born in Louisiana and attended Louisiana Tech. His Arkansas ranch is near the Louisiana border.

 

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