Larry Siems (PEN), 212-334-1660 ext. 105
Judith Platt (AAP), 202-220-4551
Bernadette Murphy (ALA), 202-628-8410, ext. 8236
Washington, D.C., February 23, 2006—Organizations representing booksellers, librarians, publishers and writers today called on the Senate to give full and fair consideration to amendments proposed by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) prior to voting on S. 2271, legislation to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act. The groups, which together make up the Campaign for Reader Privacy, say that Feingold’s amendments would make modest changes to restore privacy protections vital to library users and bookstore patrons by limiting the scope of the government’s power to conduct fishing expeditions of reading records and restoring judicial oversight of PATRIOT Act provisions. The Campaign urged the Senate leadership to allow the amendments to be offered and voted upon. A vote on the PATRIOT reauthorization bill is expected Tuesday, February 28.
Feingold’s amendments to the reauthorization bill would significantly strengthen reader privacy protections. One would establish a sunset for National Security Letters (Section 505); one would curb the FBI’s ability under Section 215 to search the reading records of people who are not suspected of any crime and who have no link to suspected terrorists. A third would allow recipients of Section 215 subpoenas and National Security Letters to meaningfully challenge the gag attached to those orders in court.
Congressional negotiations of PATRIOT Act reauthorization language have been undermined by multiple attempts by leadership in both the House and Senate to stop the introduction of and votes on reasonable revisions to the Act. Sen. Feingold’s amendments deserve a fair up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate.