Lynne Bradley, ALA, (800) 941-8478
Judith Platt, AAP, (202) 220-4551
Larry Siems, PEN, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111
WASHINGTON, DC, May 17, 2011-With a key Patriot Act provision set to expire next week, the Campaign for Reader Privacy is asking supporters to urge their members of Congress to reject a six-year extension of the provision which gives the government intrusive powers to search library and bookstore records and to pass a bill containing additional safeguards for First Amendment-protected reader privacy.
The Patriot Act authorizes the FBI to obtain secret orders to search any business or organization, including bookstores and libraries, whenever it is seeking records that are “relevant” to a national security investigation, including the records of people who are not suspected of criminal conduct. The Campaign for Reader Privacy is urging Congress to limit Patriot Act searches of bookstores and libraries to the records of “agents of a foreign power,” including suspected terrorists, and their known associates.
With several Patriot Act provisions expiring this year, booksellers, librarians, publishers, and authors want the public to soundly reject H.R. 1800, legislation that would extend the bookstore and library search provision for another six years, and to instead support H.R. 1805/S. 193, bills offered in the House by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and in the Senate by Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would extend some provisions but limit searches in bookstores and libraries to the records of people who are actually suspected terrorism or other crimes. Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed his support for additional protections such as those contained in the Conyers and Leahy bills, saying “Taken together, I believe these measures will advance the goals of enhancing the privacy and civil liberties our citizens enjoy without compromising our ability to keep our nation safe and secure.”
“Simply put, the powers that the Patriot Act gave the government to monitor what law-abiding citizens are reading have proven to be both prone to abuse and unnecessary, and it is time to restore our full faith that our government is not reading over our shoulders,” said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write Program at PEN American Center. “The Campaign for Reader Privacy strongly supports H.R. 1805/S. 193, which at last will limit Patriot Act searches in bookstores and libraries to those who are actually suspected of terrorism or other criminal activities, and we are asking readers everywhere to take a moment this week to urge their representatives to vote against a blanket extension and for these crucial protections.”
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
Campaign for Reader Privacy Call to Action:
STOP EXTENSION OF BOOKSTORE AND LIBRARY SEARCH POWERS
Booksellers, librarians, publishers, authors, and all who support the right to read without fear that the government is reading over our shoulders are urged to contact their U.S. Representatives this week and urge them to vote NO on H.R. 1800, a bill that would extend for another six years the government’s power to conduct unnecessary searches of bookstore and library records, and to vote YES on H.R. 1805, a bill that would provide additional protections for bookstore and library records.
Since 2003, the Campaign for Reader Privacy (CRP) has been fighting to restore reader privacy safeguards that were stripped by the Patriot Act. We have made progress in restoring some protections, but the government can still search the records of anyone it considers “relevant” to an investigation, whether or not they are suspected of criminal conduct or terrorism. Even Federal law enforcement officials concede they do not need such powers; earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder agreed to implement many of the reforms CRP has been pressing, saying “Taken together, I believe these measures will advance the goals of enhancing privacy and civil liberties our citizens enjoy without compromising our ability to keep our nation safe and secure.”
Ignoring such advice, House Republicans are proposing to extend for another six years the provision allowing for indiscriminate bookstore and library searches. The Campaign for Reader Privacy opposes this bill, H.R. 1800. A vote is expected in the House next week. We are supporting a bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), H.R. 1805, that would extend Patriot Act provisions considered essential to counterterrorism while limiting Patriot Act searches in bookstores and libraries to the records of people who are actually suspected of terrorism or other crimes.
Here’s what you can do:
Call or email your member of the House of Representatives BY FRIDAY, MAY 20, and tell him or her that you are a strong supporter of the right to read freely without fear that the government is reading over your shoulder. Ask your representative to vote NO on H.R. 1800 and YES on H.R. 1805.
To send an email to your representative, visit https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml
To find the phone number of your representative’s local or Washington office, visit www.house.gov and enter your zip code or your representative’s name.