We have been following the growing distaste with provisions of the Patriot Act for some time - librarians and book sellers have been particularly displeased with the provisions that allow the government to demand book loan and purchase records.
32 organizations representing booksellers, librarians, book publishers and authors have signed on in support of Vermont Congressman Bernie Sander's Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157):
- The countries two largest booksellers, Barnes & Noble and Borders are among the groups supporting the legislation. Sanders' bill restores the protections for the privacy of book and library records that were eliminated by the U.S.A. Patriot Act.
Sanders said, "I welcome the support of the book community on this important piece of legislation. The Freedom to Read Protection Act, which has the support of Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, will establish once again that libraries and bookstores are safe from overreaching government intrusion."
Specifically, Sanders' legislation would exempt libraries and bookstores from Section 215 of the Patriot Act. H.R. 1157 will still allow law enforcement officials to subpoena bookstore and library records when crucial to an investigation, but the courts will exercise their normal scrutiny in reviewing these requests. Sanders' legislation is co-sponsored by 95 members of the House, including eight Republicans.
Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression said, "The book community is united in believing that Section 215 of the Patriot Act threatens First Amendment freedom by making people afraid that their purchase and borrowing records may be monitored by the government. We applaud Congressman Sanders for his leadership on this issue."
Sanders concluded, " One of the cornerstones of our democracy is the right of Americans to criticize their government and to read printed materials without fear of government monitoring and intrusion. This tri-partisan legislation will go a long way in protecting the privacy and First Amendment rights of all Americans."
See the full list of supporters here.
Sanders wrote this op-ed on the matter for the LA Times last week:
- An unnecessary chill has descended on the nation's libraries and bookstores: The books you buy and read are now subject to government inspection and review.
....Until the Patriot Act, the FBI had the authority to obtain bank records, credit records and certain other commercial records only upon some showing that the records requested related to a suspected member of a terrorist group. The Patriot Act expanded the FBI's authority in two ways. First, it gave the FBI the authority to seize any records of any entity. Most members of Congress probably didn't realize it, but this included libraries and bookstores. Second, Congress dropped the prior requirement that the FBI actually have some evidence that the person whose records it sought was a member of a terrorist group or otherwise involved in terrorism.