SRRT Resolutions
International Responsibilities Task Force
of the American Library Association's
Social Responsibilities Round Table

Libraries in a Time of War & Emergency

The following resolution was approved by the elected representatives of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) on January 21, 2002. SRRT is a body within the American Library Association but does not and should not be taken to speak for the Association as a whole. In this resolution SRRT speaks only on its own behalf.
Submitted by Mark Rosenzweig, member of SRRT Action Council and ALA Councilor at large
Passed by SRRT Action Council, January 21, 2002


Whereas the current policies of the US Government, invoking a 'national state of emergency' in its 'war against terrorism' has invoked an over-broad definition of terrorism and terrorist which involves issues of violation of intellectual freedom, and since its conduct encourages the use of unconstitutionally obtained evidence, practices the unconstitutional refusal to inform 'suspects' of what crimes they are being accused of, employs the use of racial 'profiling' in the determination of suspects,justifies the denial of due process to suspects, illegal detention, the mistreatment and unequal treatment of prisoners who are suspects and claims the right to the use of torture to obtain information


Whereas, more specifically, libraries have been enlisted to assist in and enable the use of racial/ethnic profiling in identification of 'suspects'; the surveillance of individuals based on arbitrary criteria, the turning over of confidential library records on the presentation of a mere search warrant (in violation of our Library Bill of Rights, our Code of Ethics and policy manual's specific and detailed elaboration of this issue (52.4)); the practice of allowing individual librarians/library workers, on the basis of own personal judgment and without even informing library management, of informing on individuals to police agencies for any practices deemed on an ad hoc basis to be 'suspicious' (in effect turning librarians and library workers into an information para-police), and public libraries are being suggested as local interrogation centers for mass round-ups of foreign nationals for questioning, all thereby implicating libraries in the commission of these government violations rights and norms of legality


Whereas security measures are being widely proposed for institutions which would, as applied in libraries, encourage the abuse of authority, arbitrary and unequal treatment of patrons, loss of users' privacy rights,regimens of invasive surveillance, and the use as evidence of material read or accessed by individuals, a developoment which would destroy libraries as centers of free inquiry


Whereas the practice of the Abridgment of the Rights of Foreign Nationals is specifically invoked in our policy manual (58.3) as unacceptable to the Asociation , even allowing that ALA will"address grievances of foreign nationals when the infringement of their rights of free expression is clearly a matter in which all free people should show concern." calling for resolutions or other documents attesting to such grievances [to be] brought to the attention of the Excecutive Board and Council and the ALA International Relations Committee"


Whereas the conduct of the government in this declared domestic state of emergency is also in violation of theUnited Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in general and so-called Article 19 in particular in violation of our policy (58.4) which states along with the Declarationthe "everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers, and violates the intent of our resolution on Human Rights and Freedom of Expression (58.4.1)


Whereas ALA specifically opposes Governmental Intimidation (53.4), going so far as to state that "ALA encourages resistance to such abuse of government power, and supports those against whom such government power has been employed"


Whereas we urge ALA to condemn the establishment of 'secret military tribunals, here and abroad with the power to try or sentence or execute civilians or military personnel as an odiously undemocratic practice which undermines the rule of law on which democracy is based

Be it then resolved that the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) on the basis of its own commitments and those of the Association as a whole, oppose and encourages ALA to formally by resolution of Council oppose the conduct under any circumstances of enforcement of "homeland security" through abridgements of fundamental rights (including the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty); government intimidation; illegal obtaining of evidence, illegal search and seizure, racial profiling; denial of due process; mistreatment of suspects and prisoners, the curtailment of free speech, the exercise of free expression and punishment for legal advocacy or expression of beliefs.

Be it further resolved that libraries will remain centers of free inquiry and debate, in which dissent to government policy is not a suspicious activity and where free access to information is assured (53.1 - 53.8 -Library Bill of Rights; 50.3) under conditions of legally protected confidentiality. (52.4) , and places where information of a critical nature relative to government policy will be pro-actively provided, where information about rights relevant to violations of one's civil liberties under the state of emergency will be readily available in as many languages as possible and where policy debate is encouraged without prejudice.

And be it further resolved that SRRT opposes and urges ALA to oppose the practice of government and military censorship with regard to information about the state of emergency, the war in Afghanistan, and the actions taken in pursuit of its changing goals in the region; encourages the major media to exercise its mandate and forgo self-censorship; and defend the use of Shield Laws (53.5) to ensure a free press always threatened in time of war and emergency.
as well as restrictions being arbitrarily placed on government materials ordinarily made public in the interest of 'national security'

And be it further resolved that SRRT opposes and urges ALA to formally oppose as policy the establishment of any and all secret military tribunals, domestically and abroad, where free speech, due process and equal treatment before the law, (including the 'law of war' an d other internationally recognized protocols) will be denied, and opposes as well all other measures which, even in so-called states of emergency, suspend the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other legal protections of the rights of peoples, such as guaranteed in our Bill of Rights.

Page last modified July 11, 2002.