Who's Reading Your Reading List?

It's not clear "if" or "how many" Mississippians have had their reading list scrutinized by the federal government. Today the director of the state library commission said the Patriot Act.. forbids librarians to even discuss subpoena among themselves. After September 11th the Patriot Act was the government's answer to preventing future terrorists attacks. But critics claim the laws do more harm than good by taking away some of our basic rights.

What you check out of public libraries isn't always private information. By law librarians and book store owners can be forced to turn over records about the materials, web sites and e mails you read.

Mississippi Library Commission director Sharman Smith said "In addition to being concerned about patrons' rights and privacy, we're also concerned that it will conversely affect library usage because people if they feel they're being watched may well decide not to read, not to use library computers."

On September 11th the country realized just how vulnerable it was to terrorists. The U.S. Attorney's office credits the Patriot Act for better communication among the government agencies and allowing law enforcement to keep up with technology.

"In a world where a person can buy a disposable cell phone and they can literally talk on it a while here and then go and buy another disposable cell phone," said Stan Harris, 1st Assistant U.S. Attorney.

"It's very important that the government be able to get a court ordered wire tap if they can show the probable cause and get the approval of the court for that person as opposed to just that particular phone line."

Critics of the Patriot Act used a Gulfport forum to urge Americans not to let the government erode their rights in the name of security.

Joe Cook of the A.C.L.U. claims "This is un-American. If we allow the threat of terrorism, the threat of a terrorist attack to take away our basic freedoms then the terrorist will have won."

Both sides argue they're separating fact from the myth. Congress must decide whether to extend the Patriot Act or else it will expire at the end of 2005.