Lynne Bradley (ALA) 800-941-8478
Judith Platt (AAP) 202-220-4551
Larry Siems (PEN) 212-334-1660 x 105
Washington, DC, November 11, 2009: The Campaign for Reader Privacy today urged its supporters to contact members of the House of Representatives in support of a bill that would effectively ban the government from using the Patriot Act to engage in fishing expeditions to identify the books that people borrow or purchase.
The House Judiciary Committee last week approved the USA Patriot Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 3845), which prohibits the use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act to search the records of a library patron or bookstore customer unless there are “specific and articulable facts” to show that the person is “a suspected agent of a foreign power” or someone who is in contact or known to the suspected agent.
Currently, Section 215 allows the FBI to secretly obtain any “tangible thing,” including any business records that are “relevant” to an ongoing investigation, including the records of people who are not suspected of any criminal acts. However, Congress is currently debating changes in Section 215 and other provisions of the Patriot Act that expire in December. H.R. 3845 would allow readers to borrow and purchase books without fear that the government is monitoring their reading selections, while at the same time permitting Section 215 searches of bookstore and library records of suspected foreign agents and terrorists.
“The passage of H.R. 3845 would be a major victory in our eight-year fight to restore the protections for the privacy of reader records,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. Siems noted that the vote in the House will occur soon. “Now is the time for everyone who cares about protecting the right to read freely, without fear that government is reading over our shoulders, to call or write their House representatives.”
The Campaign for Reader Privacy is also urging calls and faxes to members of the Senate, who may vote on a re-authorization bill (S. 1692) as soon as next week. It is calling for the addition to S. 1692 of protections for the privacy of bookstore records. S. 1692 only provides protections for library records.
The Campaign for Reader Privacy was organized in 2004 by the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center. Its goal is to ensure that Americans can purchase and borrow books without fear that the government is reading over their shoulders.