Lynne Bradley, ALA, (800) 941-8478
Judith Platt, AAP, (202) 220-4551
Larry Siems, PEN, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111
WASHINGTON, DC, March 14, 2011-The fight to restore the safeguards for reader privacy that were eliminated by the Patriot Act took an important step forward last week when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation barring the FBI from using the Patriot Act to search bookstore and library records unless they relate to a suspected terrorist or someone known to the suspect. The committee vote was 10-7 with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) joining nine Democrats to approve the measure.
Now the fight moves to the Senate floor where the bill, the USA Patriot Act Sunset Extension Act of 2011 (S. 193), will be brought to a vote sometime before the end of May when several provisions of the Patriot Act will expire. Section 215, which affects bookstores and libraries, is one of the expiring sections.
The Campaign for Reader Privacy, representing librarians, booksellers, authors and publishers, is urging its supporters to ask their senators to support S. 193. Contact information is available here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
The House also considered Patriot re-authorization last week when the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime held a hearing. On February 18, the House defeated a floor amendment offered by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) that banned the use of the Patriot Act to search bookstore and library records. The vote, 196-231, was closer than many expected. Thirty-two Republicans voted for the measure. When Bernie Sanders introduced the same amendment in 2005, it attracted only 27 Republican votes. (A breakdown of the Feb. 18 vote is available here: http://www.govtrack.us/Congress/vote.xpd?vote=h2011-95)
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 shoulder. For more information, visit www.readerprivacy.org