1987 September 18

New York Times Exposes FBI Library Awareness Program


A font-page article in The New York Times on this day exposed an FBI program of snooping on people’s use of public libraries. The secret program was known as the Library Awareness Program, designed as a counterintelligence effort. The story highlighted a visit to a Columbia University library in June, during which an FBI agent asked librarians to be “alert” to library patrons who were “hostile to the United States” and to provide information to the Bureau about such activities. The Columbia University librarian notified the American Library Association (ALA), which in turn brought the issue to the Times.

The FBI’s library program intensified after 9/11, and on January 23, 2003, the ALA adopted a formal policy advising librarians across the country on how to respond to FBI requests and also to inform their patrons.

Learn more: Herbert Foerstel, Refuge of a Scoundrel: The Patriot Act in Libraries (2004)

Learn more from the ALA about the Library Awareness Program: http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=ifissues&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=21662

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