In September 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft called out the librarians. The American Library Association and civil liberties groups, he said, were pushing “baseless hysteria” about the controversial Patriot Act. He suggested that they were worried that spy agencies wanted to know “how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel.”
Ashcroft was 17 speeches into a national speaking tour defending the Patriot Act, a law expanding government surveillance powers that passed nearly unanimously in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And all along the way, the librarians showed up to protest.
In the case of government surveillance, they are not shushing. They’ve been among the loudest voices urging freedom of information and privacy protections.