CRP calls supporters to action during final weeks of campaign to amend Section 215
Last week, Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) asked their Senate colleagues to encourage Senate conferees to defend the Senate-passed version of the USA Patriot Act reauthorization bill, the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (S. 1389), when House and Senate conferees meet this fall to reconcile their different bills.
The Senators asked Senate members to endorse a letter that they will send to the Senate conferees, which said, in part:
"The Senate bill retains all of the new powers created by the Patriot Act, but places reasonable checks and balances on these powers. It takes important steps to protect fundamental constitutional rights while giving law enforcement the authorities they need to fight terrorism.
"The House of Representative bill reauthorizes all of the Patriot Act's expiring powers, but it does not place limits on these powers that are needed to protect the constitutional rights of innocent Americans. Additionally, it includes controversial extraneous provisions that are unrelated to the Patriot Act, have not been requested by the Bush Administration, and have not been considered by the Senate."
Earlier this month, Reps. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), C.L. "Butch" Otter (R-ID), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ron Paul (R-TX), and Tom Udall (D-CO) wrote House colleagues to urge Senate conferees to resist attempts to weaken the safeguards for reader privacy in S. 1389. Citing their belief that "the changes in S. 1389 provide greater safeguards to Americans' library and bookstore records and reflect the desire of a majority of House members, who voted 238 - 187 on June 15 to provide greater privacy protections for readers," the five representatives asked House members to endorse a letter that they will send to the House conferees, where they noted:
"We are particularly pleased with the greater relevance standard for Section 215 orders included in S. 1389. Under this language, the FBI would be required to provide facts showing reason to believe that the records sought are relevant to a terrorism investigation, and that these records are somehow connected to an agent of a foreign power, in order to obtain a Section 215 order. The House bill, however, does not require any facts establishing a link between the person whose records are being sought and a terrorism investigation or a crime."
The Senate conferees are Arlen Specter (R-PA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Michael DeWine (R-OH), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Carl Levin (D-MI). The House conferees have not been chosen.
On Wednesday, August 24, the sponsors of the Campaign for Reader Privacy (CRP) -- ABA, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center -- issued a press statement urging supporters to continue pushing for the Senate version of the Patriot Act reauthorization legislation during the final weeks of the two-and-a-half year battle to amend Section 215. The groups asked supporters of reader privacy to call on their House and Senate representatives to ask them to endorse the letters being circulated by Sanders and Durbin and Craig, as well as to contact Senate conferees to urge them to push for S. 1389. The conferees are expected to meet soon after Congress returns from its August recess. (For a related article in this week's BTW, go to news.bookweb.org/read/3729.)
ABA is strongly urging booksellers to redouble their efforts to collect signatures on Campaign for Reader Privacy petitions over the next few weeks and to send ABA the signed petitions they already have. (Petitions should be sent to the attention of ABA COO Oren Teicher, ABA, 200 White Plains Rd., Tarrytown, NY 10520.)