Senator Feingold Expected to Introduce Act to Protect Bookstore Privacy

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

As Bookselling This Week went to press, it was expected that Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI) would introduce the Library, Bookstore, and Personal Records Privacy Act into the Senate early next week. Feingold's bill would narrow the universe of people whose bookstore or library records could be searched under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The USA Patriot Act amended FISA to give the FBI expanded authority to search business records, including the business records of bookstores and libraries, in regards to any person. Under Feingold's proposed bill, the FBI would have to show the suspect to be a foreign agent. FISA defines a foreign agent as someone engaged in espionage or terrorism.

Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), told BTW that ABFFE supports Feingold's bill. "[We] see it as a significant step forward in improving the Patriot Act," he said. "Even though, obviously, we would prefer to see [Rep. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT)] Freedom to Read Protection Act passed because it entirely exempts bookstores and libraries from provisions of the Patriot Act."

The Library, Bookstore, and Personal Records Privacy Act looks to "protect privacy by limiting the access of the government to library, bookseller, and other personal records for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes." For one, it would amend Section 501 of FISA so that, prior to seeking a suspect's records, the FBI must "specify that there are specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that the person to whom the records pertain is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power."

Currently, the Library, Bookstore, and Personal Records Privacy Act has eight co-sponsors: Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon S. Corzine (D-NJ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), James M. Jeffords (I-VT), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Look for more coverage of the Library and Personal Records Privacy Act in upcoming issues of BTW.