Larry Siems (PEN), 212-334-1660, ext. 105
Judith Platt (AAP), 202-220-4551
Larra Clark (ALA), 312-280-5043
New York, NY, December 20, 2006—Organizations representing booksellers, librarians, publishers and writers today welcomed Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy’s call for the “restoration, repair and renewal” of civil liberties in the United States, including new legislation to repair the “erosion of privacy.” “Privacy rights belong to the people, not the government,” Leahy said last week during a speech at Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C. Leahy, who will become chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, promised that his committee would lead the way. “We will take an active role–and, I hope, a bipartisan role–in charting a new course,” he said.
Leaders of the Campaign for Reader Privacy expressed the hope that Leahy’s emphasis on protecting privacy will translate into early action by the Senate to restore privacy safeguards for bookstore and library records that were eliminated by the USA Patriot Act. In February, Congress reauthorized provisions of the Patriot Act that allow the FBI to search bookstore and library records on an assertion they may contain information “relevant” to a terrorism investigation. In 2005, the Senate approved restrictions on the FBI’s search authority that would have tied such searches to a suspected terrorist or someone connected to the suspect. The House refused to approve that safeguard, however.
“Booksellers everywhere are grateful for Senator Leahy’s interest in restoring privacy, and we will do everything we can to help build bipartisan support for his position,” Oren Teicher, the chief operating officers of the American Booksellers Association said. He noted that 38 Republican members of House of Representatives last year helped pass Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders’ Freedom to Read Amendment, which exempts most bookstore and library records from search under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The amendment, which was attached to an appropriations bill, was later dropped during negotiations between House and Senate leaders.
“When the Patriot Act reauthorization was signed, I promised that the fight for reader privacy was far from over. Senator Leahy’s expressed commitment to restore civil liberties gives us the jump-start we need to renew that fight,” said former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers.
“Every state in the union protects the privacy and confidentiality of library reading records. People visiting libraries expect to enjoy the freedom to read without government monitoring,” said ALA President Leslie Burger. “We look forward to putting privacy back on the national legislative agenda where it belongs.”
The Campaign for Reader Privacy was organized in 2004 to fight for changes in the Patriot Act. In the spring of 2004, it issued a statement on behalf of 35 organizations representing almost all of the booksellers, librarians, writers and publishers in the United States as well as many of the most prominent companies in the book publishing industry. It also launched a petition campaign that collected more than 200,000 signatures in bookstores and libraries.