Larry Siems (PEN), 212-334-1660 ext. 105
Judith Platt (AAP), 202-220-4551
Bernadette Murphy (ALA), 202-628-8410 ext. 236
Washington, D.C., July 21, 2005—Organizations representing booksellers, librarians, publishers and writers today welcomed the improved reader privacy protections added to a Senate bill reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. Although S. 1389 (USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act) does not address all of the book community's concerns with Section 215, it provides a more stringent standard to which the FBI must adhere when seeking an order under Section 215. The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary committee this morning.
In addition to the more stringent standard for seeking Section 215 orders, S. 1389 would lessen the possibility for abuse of reader privacy under Section 215 by allowing the recipient of a Section 215 order to consult an attorney and to challenge the order in the FISA court under rules and procedures to be established. The bill would also require prior written approval of the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI for any application for a FISA Court order to compel production of library circulation records, library patron lists, book sales records, and book customer lists containing personally identifiable information. Under the bill's provisions Justice Department must publicly reveal each year the number of Section 215 orders issued to bookstores and libraries. It also provides that Section 215 will expire at the end of 2009.
"We are pleased the Senate has strengthened the requirements for getting a Section 215 order and allowed recipients the ability to challenge these orders," said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office. "We hope that further protections will be added to the bill to ensure the same requirements for National Security letters," she added.
"The Senate Judiciary Committee has taken a significant step toward satisfying our concerns about the PATRIOT Act," Oren Teicher, the chief operating officer of the American Booksellers Association, said.
"Although we did not get everything we had hoped for, S. 1389 re-establishes important judicial safeguards for reader privacy. We now must concentrate our efforts on keeping and strengthening these protections. We have a formidable fight ahead of us on the floor of the Senate and in conference," said Pat Schroeder, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers.
"If the Senate's bill becomes law, bookstores and libraries will be in a better position to protect the records of law-abiding patrons than they have been since the PATRIOT Act passed in October 2001," said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. "It's a start, definitely. And resetting the clock for Section 215 to sunset in 4 years ensures that further improvements can be made to the provision in the future."