The Patriot Act
I was just at a presentation about the Patriot Act and its impact on libraries. The Act gave the government more power to access information about individuals. Including their library records. The Act makes use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which, if I understood correctly, was enacted during the seventies in the aftermath of Watergate. The FISA includes a gag order, so any demands made under its aegis cannot be spoken of. So it's impossible to get any idea of how often the Patriot Act has been used to get library records.
One of the speakers stated that many bookstores have quit tracking sales, so they won't have records to subpoena. The same speaker said book clubs are fading away.
And the Department of Justice is working on a Patriot Act II.