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CLA Resolution on privacy rights and open government
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October 22, 2013

Dear CLA Members, California Librarians, Library Staff and Library Supporters,

Over the last few months, the CLA Board has had numerous conversations about ways it could engage in supporting the privacy and intellectual freedom rights of library users and the public at large in light of this summer's revelations about the United States Government's activities to broadly collect data concerning the private communications of American citizens. As time goes on, more and more information is coming out regarding the depth of the government's programs to spy on its own citizens, disregarding the spirit if not the actual letter of the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. 

As a first step, the CLA Board adopted the following resolution on September 16, 2013, modeled after a resolution passed by the ALA Council this summer, but with more focus on the impact on Californians and California libraries. In the year ahead, President-Elect Deborah Doyle and I will be asking the CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee to take the lead on engaging the CLA membership in further discussion and initiatives related to this important issue. 

As an immediate step for those in the Bay Area, I encourage you to join me in attending an event on November 7 in San Mateo: The ACLU-North Peninsula Chapter presents Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, discussing "Under Surveillance and Overexposed: The NSA, the Law, and What You Can Do." This event will take place on November 7th at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (1300 S. El Camino Real, #100, San Mateo). A reception with light refreshments begins at 6:45 PM, and the program begins at 7:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact: (650) 286-7791 or  

Thanks very much for your engagement, and please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. I hope to see you all in Long Beach in just two weeks, and in San Mateo on November 7! Please see below for the full text of the CLA resolution. Best Regards, 

Derek Wolfgram, President
California Library Association


CLA Resolution On Privacy Rights and Open Government

Whereas, public access to information by and about the government is essential for the healthy functioning of a democratic society and a necessary predicate for an informed and engaged citizenry empowered to hold the government accountable for its actions; and 
Whereas, the California Library Association (CLA) supports policies of the American Library Association (ALA) pertaining to the right to privacy, including but not limited to the ALA Code of Ethics (1939), Principles for the Networked World (2002), and Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2002); and  
Whereas, the rights of anonymity and privacy while people retrieve and communicate information must be protected as an essential element of intellectual freedom; and
Whereas, CLA values access to documents disclosing the extent of public surveillance and government secrecy as access to these documents now enables the critical public discourse and debate needed to address the balance between our civil liberties and national security; and 
Whereas, these disclosures enable libraries to support such discourse and debate by providing information and resources and for deliberative dialogue and community engagement; and
Whereas, libraries are essential to the free flow of ideas and to ensuring the public’s right to know; and
Whereas, for over a decade librarians and library workers in California and across the nation have criticized the USA PATRIOT Act on the grounds that it increases the likelihood that the activities of library users, including their use of computers to browse the Web or access e-mail, may be under government surveillance without their knowledge or consent; and
Whereas, the public recently learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting the telephone call metadata of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon Business Services, AT&T, and Sprint pursuant to an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act; and
Whereas, pursuant to a court order issued by the FISC under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) the NSA is operating a program called PRISM that is collecting and retaining vast quantities of data on internet usage, including internet search histories, email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats, file transfers, and social networking details, from internet service providers in the United States.  Though intended to target communications of foreign persons, the NSA admits that it collects and stores Internet data from U.S. persons; now, therefore be it 
Resolved, that the California Library Association:
  •  Affirms its unwavering support for the fundamental principles that are the foundation of our free and democratic society, including a system of public accountability, government transparency, and oversight that supports people’s right to know about and participate in our government;
  • Calls upon the U.S. Congress, President Obama, and the Courts to reform our nation’s climate of secrecy, overclassification, and secret law regarding national security and surveillance, to align with these democratic principles;
  • Calls upon our members to lead and the public to engage in public dialogues discussing the right to privacy, open government and balancing civil liberties and national security;
  • Encourages the public to support bills and other proposals that both secure and protect our rights to privacy, free expression and free association and promote a more open, transparent government;
  • Expresses its thanks and appreciation to the members of Congress who work to protect our privacy and civil liberties.
Adopted by the CLA Board of Directors September 16, 2013.