Ready, Set, Advocate! It’s AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day

March 27, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, nearly two dozen of your law librarian colleagues will meet with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill to discuss the most pressing issues affecting your profession. Help to magnify their influence and make a difference for law libraries by contacting your members of Congress today!

Our Legislative Action Center is ready to send customizable emails to your members of Congress on our top Lobby Day issues with just the click of a button. Prefer to advocate over the phone?  You can find lobby day talking points on all of our legislative priorities on AALLNET, along with our best tips for contacting legislators.

This year, Lobby Day participants are targeting members of Congress with specific asks based on their interests and committee assignments. If you registered in advance to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day, you will have already received the materials you need to take action on targeted issues. If not, never fear! Enter your home address in our Legislative Action Center to get all the information you’ll need about your members of Congress.  For instance, you can consider your members’ committee assignments to determine what issues they’re most likely to support. If your Congressman sits on the House Judiciary committee, pitch him on ECPA reform. If he sits on House Oversight, consider asking him to co-sponsor FASTR. If he voted “yea” on the Amash amendment to defund the NSA, you may have luck in asking him to co-sponsor the USA FREEDOM Act. On the Senate side, Rules Committee members can be approached about supporting the Government Publishing Act of 2014 to change the name of GPO. Senate Judiciary Committee members are good targets for ECPA reform or the USA FREEDOM Act. Are your members of Congress on the Appropriations Committees? Contact them in support of GPO and LC. The Action Center profiles will also show if your legislators are co-sponsors of AALL’s target legislation—if they’re not, you can ask them to co-sponsor.

Participating in the Virtual Lobby Day is really that painless. By making a call or sending an email today, you’ll give AALL a strong showing on Capitol Hill and help to advance a policy agenda that makes a difference for law libraries.

Thanks for all that you do!

Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! Make a Wish for ECPA Reform

March 12, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

On March 12th, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee put forth a proposal to make information sharing possible over computers. That proposal in turn would eventually became the World Wide Web, and today we celebrate its 25th birthday.

It’s a gross understatement to say a lot has changed in technology and the Internet since 1989, from the first website and search engines of the early ‘90s to the more recent rise and growth of cloud computing, However, there has been one constant over time:  the law that protects the privacy of your online communications from government intrusion, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), has not been updated since it was authored in 1986.

Yes, the rules governing your online privacy are older than the Web itself. While technology has advanced at a rapid pace, electronic privacy law has remained at a standstill. Without reform, the kind of electronic communications and records that are common today— think any email, Facebook posts, search history, cloud computing documents, cell phone location information, or text messages older than 180 days— can be freely seized without a warrant.

While two reform bills have been introduced, Congress remains slow to act. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the ECPA Amendments Act of 2013 (S. 607) in April 2013. It awaits consideration by the full Senate. The House proposal, the Email Privacy Act (HR. 1852) has a not-insignificant 184 co-sponsors, but has not yet been heard in committee. These reforms would establish a search warrant requirement for the government to obtain the content of Americans’ emails when those communications are stored with a third-party service provider. The bills eliminate the outdated “180-day” rule that calls for different legal standards for the government to obtain email content depending upon the age of an email and would also require the government to notify any individual whose electronic communications have been disclosed within 10 days of obtaining a search warrant.

As we celebrate the advances of the Web over the last 25 years, it’s long past time due to reform ECPA and bring electronic privacy law up to speed.

Sign up to Take Part in AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27

March 7, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Help give law librarians a strong showing on Capitol Hill by participating in AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27!

At the end of the month, nearly two dozen AALL members will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with their members of Congress to discuss AALL’s top priority issues as part of our 2014 Local Advocate Lobby Day. Their conversations will cover a range of important topics facing law librarianship, from proposed surveillance and privacy reforms, transparency and open government legislation, and funding for the Government Printing Office, Library of Congress, and related agencies.

From the comfort of your desk, you can help to magnify the impact of these meetings and expand AALL’s influence in Congress.  Sign up to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day and you will receive directions and tips about contacting your member of Congress on March 27 using our Legislative Action Center. The AALL Government Relations Office will provide background information on legislation, talking points, sample messages, and suggested tips to help maximize your influence.  Email me at with any questions.

Register for the Virtual Lobby Day by March 25 to receive in your inbox all the information you’ll need to make a difference for law libraries. Thanks for all that you do to raise the profile of AALL and law librarians everywhere.

February Washington E-Bulletin

February 3, 2014

The February issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.


Vol. 2014, Issue 02





President Calls for NSA Reform but Statutory Fix Most Necessary

January 17, 2014

Today, President Obama outlined steps to reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. AALL supports several of the proposals outlined in President Obama’s speech, including increased transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, changes to the use of National Security Letters and increased executive branch oversight. However, AALL believes that in order to protect the privacy of library users and all Americans, Congress must enact reform to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

AALL strongly supports the USA FREEDOM Act, which would amend the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to better protect Americans’ privacy and require greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities. We urge members to take action in support of the Act.

AALL Urges FCC to Provide Permanent Public Access to Legal Materials

December 5, 2013

By Elizabeth

In response to Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler’s call for input on how the agency can more efficiently and effectively serve the public interest, AALL has joined with several organizations and individuals to urge the Commission to make those primary legal materials and publicly available comments hosted exclusively on their website additionally available through the Government Printing Office (GPO)’s FDsys. As noted in a letter sent this week and signed by AALL, the Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law and Policy Clinic, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Special Libraries Association, law librarians Susan Nevelow Mart* and Jane Thompson of Colorado Law, and James Jacobs of Free Government Information (FGI), doing so would facilitate continued public access in the event of another government shutdown or other circumstances that may force the Commission’s website offline. The Commission stands not only to improve the public’s access to official government information and ability to participate in governmental processes during periods of crisis, but to serve as a model for other agencies to implement the principles of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative.

As AALL described in our recent letter to GPO, during the October government shutdown, members of the public were denied access to content on federal agency websites, including primary legal materials available exclusively on the FCC website, orders not yet published in the FCC Record, and public comments available exclusively on the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) and other Commission systems. As such, librarians and patrons who needed to find resources maintained by federal agencies were often stymied. In contrast, FDsys remained accessible during the shutdown, affording the public access to authentic government information such as the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, and bills and laws. By partnering with GPO to make primary legal materials and comments accessible through the FDsys, the FCC will ensure permanent public access to its essential materials.  Doing so will allow the public to stay informed and continue to participate in the democratic process, even in times of crisis.

*Susan Nevelow Mart serves as the current chair of AALL’s Government Relations Committee.

December Washington E-Bulletin

December 2, 2013

The December issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.


Vol. 2013, Issue 12





Library Associations Thank GPO for “Keeping America Informed” During Shutdown

November 7, 2013

By Elizabeth

Together with the American Library Association (ALA), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and Special Libraries Association (SLA), the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) today sent a letter to Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks in appreciation of the Government Printing Office’s commitment to continued public access to official, authentic government information during the recent federal government shutdown.  The letter includes AALL member anecdotes, collected by the Government Relations Committee, that demonstrate the impact of the shutdown on librarians and their patrons.

While many federal agency websites were suspended during the shutdown, GPO’s website, Catalog of Government Publications, and FDsys were available and updated with Congressional information, demonstrating GPO’s critical role in ensuring the full electronic life cycle of digital content. In the letter, the four library associations urge GPO to ingest more agency content into FDsys and to continue to harvest agency websites. Unlike information on government websites, information published on FDsys is permanently available, authenticated, versioned, searchable, and downloadable. In the case of another government shutdown, we encourage GPO to highlight agency resources that have been ingested.

The Joint Committee on Printing and House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Legislative Branch have been copied on the library associations’ letter, which will serve as a valuable reminder of the critical role of agencies like GPO in providing public access to government information. If you have not yet shared your stories of the shutdown with your members of Congress, we encourage you to do so today using AALL’s Legislative Action Center.

October Online Advocacy Training: “Advocating at the State Level: Tips and Tricks for Success”

October 17, 2013

With Congress in a state of gridlock, state governments have recently provided a unique opportunity for law librarians to influence policymaking in their own backyards. From enacting the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) to fighting proposed budget cuts, law librarians have been on the front lines of some of the most important decisions impacting access to legal information.

Join the AALL Government Relations Office staff on Tuesday, October 29 from 12:00-12:30 pm ET for “Advocating at the State Level: Tips and Tricks for Success.” We’ll offer tips to help you raise the profile and visibility of law libraries in your state. Learn how to build effective coalitions, help introduce  pro-law library bills, and form relationships  in your legislature.

As state budgets rebound from the shortages of the last several years, there are more opportunities to enact a proactive library agenda. Register today to learn how you can help.

This training is complimentary for AALL members and chapter members, but advance registration is required. Sign up online by October 28.

A Quick Guide to the Laws Governing NSA Surveillance

September 19, 2013

By Elizabeth

As we’ve shared in previous posts, the AALL Government Relations Office (GRO) has been working closely with key allies on Capitol Hill to support several Congressional efforts for greater transparency, privacy protections, and government oversight in the wake of the recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic surveillance programs.

We now know the NSA gathers intelligence under Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act, and declassified court opinions show the NSA gathers tens of thousands of “domestic communications” by and from Americans in its normal gathering of foreign communications. Under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the NSA also performs bulk collection of telephone metadata.

What are the differences between Sections 702 and 215 and how are they being used to conduct surveillance? While we haven’t learned much about the FISC’s legal interpretation of these two key provisions, here’s a brief guide to what we do know: 

Section 702

Title VII, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), “Procedures for targeting certain persons outside the United States other than United States persons” (50 USC § 1881a)

  • Allows for targeting of communications of foreign persons located abroad for foreign intelligence purposes
  • Must have appropriate and documented foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition and foreign target must be reasonably believed to be outside the United States
  • Cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, or any other U.S. person, or to intentionally target any person known to be in the United States; cannot be used to target a person outside the United States if the purpose is to acquire information from a person inside the United States
  • Subject to annual review of “certifications” jointly submitted by U.S. Attorney General and Director of National Security which define the categories of foreign actors that may be targets and include specific targeting and minimization procedures
  • Department of Justice and Office of the Director of National Intelligence conduct on-site reviews of targeting, minimization, and dissemination decisions at least every 60 days

Section 215

Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, which amended Title V, Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), “Access to Certain Business Records for Foreign Intelligence and International Terrorism Investigations” (50 USC § 1861)

  • Used to justify collection of telephone metadata; does not acquire content communication, the identity of any party to communication, or any cell-site locational information
  • Metadata stored in repositories within secure networks, must be uniquely marked, and can only be accessed by a limited number of authorized personnel; metadata not reviewed and minimized must be destroyed within 5 years
  • Metadata may be queried only when there is reasonable suspicion, based on specific and articulated facts, that identifier used as basis for query is associated with specific foreign terrorist organizations; basis must be documented in writing in advance
  • Government must file report describing  implementation of the program to FISC every 30 days, including application the Reasonable Articulable Suspicion (RAS) standard, number of approved queries and the number of instances that query results that contain U.S. person information were shared outside of NSA
  •  FISC reviews and must reauthorize the program every 90 days

Stayed tuned to the Blawg for the updates on our efforts and visit our 113th Congress Bill Tracking Chart for the latest progress on pending legislation.


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