Lynne Bradley (ALA), (800) 941-8478
Judith Platt (AAP), 202-220-4551
Larry Siems (PEN), 212-334-1660, ext. 105
Washington, DC, April 1, 2008 – Organizations representing booksellers, librarians, publishers, and writers today released an open letter calling on Congress to pass legislation that will restore the safeguards for reader privacy that were eliminated by the USA Patriot Act. In a letter published in today'sRoll Call , the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers and PEN American Center urged approval of the National Security Letters Reform Act (S. 2088 and H.R. 3189). The letter cited two recent reports by the Inspector General of the Justice Department that show that the FBI has violated the law thousands of times since Congress expanded its authority to issue National Security Letters (NSLs), which it can use to seize records from bookstores and libraries without court approval.“The NSL Reform Act gives the FBI the tools it needs to conduct urgent investigations without sacrificing our most basic constitutional principles,” the letter says.
ABA, ALA, AAP and PEN launched the Campaign for Reader Privacy in 2004 to fight for changes in the Patriot Act, which authorized the federal government to issue secret orders to bookstores and libraries forcing them to turn over the records of their customers and patrons without demonstrating probable cause to believe they were involved in terrorist activity. The Inspector General of the Justice Department has reported that the FBI issued 200,000 NSLs in the period 2003-2006.
S. 2088 and H.R. 3189 restrict FBI searches to the records of those either suspected of or directly connected to terrorism or espionage. It also limits the time that booksellers and librarians are barred by a gag provision from revealing the receipt of an NSL, which is used to obtain Internet records, or a Section 215 order, which can be used to demand all other records.
S. 2088 was introduced by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and is co-sponsored by 11 Senators. H.R. 3889 was introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and is co-sponsored by 27 Representatives.
Neither bill has received a hearing since they were introduced last year.