Larry Siems (PEN), 212-334-1660 ext. 105
Judith Platt (AAP), 202-220-4551
Bernadette Murphy (ALA), 202-628-8410 ext. 236
Washington, D.C., August 24, 2005—In the final weeks of their two and a half year battle to restore the protections for reader privacy that were eliminated by the USA PATRIOT Act, organizations representing booksellers, librarians, publishers and writers today urged their supporters to continue pushing for the Senate version of legislation re-authorizing expiring sections of the PATRIOT Act. That version, in contrast to the unacceptable House bill, includes significant new protections for bookstore and library records and resets the clock for the records section to expire in three years. Supporters of reader privacy should be calling their House and Senate representatives to ask them to endorse letters being circulated by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Larry Craig (R-ID) that call on members of the House and Senate conference committee to adopt the Senate bill. The conferees are expected to meet soon after Congress returns from its August recess.
Although S. 1389 (USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act) does not address all of the book community’s concerns, it provides a more stringent standard to which the FBI must adhere when seeking bookstore and library records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Under Section 215, the FBI may demand any records that are “relevant” to a terrorism or espionage investigation, including the records of people who are not suspected of committing a crime. While the House bill maintains this overly broad standard, S. 1389 requires the FBI to provide facts indicating that the person whose records are sought is a terrorist, the agent of a foreign power or someone who is an acquaintance of a person suspected of terrorism or espionage.
The Campaign for Reader Privacy strongly believes that S. 1389 is the logical choice of the conferees because it passed with the unanimous consent of the Senate, while the House was deeply divided over its bill. Indeed, the House had voted 238-187 on June 15 to provide greater protections for reader privacy. However, the conference committee can adopt the House bill if it chooses.
The Campaign for Reader Privacy is also urging its supporters to contact the Senate conferees to urge them to push for S. 1389. They are Arlen Specter (R-PA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Michael DeWine (R-OH), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Carl Levin (D-MI). The House conferees have not been chosen yet.