Rep. Bernie Sanders
Next week, on Wednesday or Thursday, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is planning to add to a House appropriations bill, which funds the Justice Department, an amendment that cuts off funds for bookstore and library searches under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The American Booksellers Association, in conjunction with its partners in the Campaign for Reader Privacy (CRP) -- the American Library Association and PEN American Center -- is urging members of the book industry, the library community, and the general public to support the amendment, which seeks to bar the Justice Department from using any of the appropriations funding to search bookstore and library records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
"Bernie Sanders is leading the fight to restore the protections for the privacy of bookstore and library records, and we need to do everything we can to support him," said ABA COO Oren Teicher.
ABA is urging opponents of Section 215 to immediately contact their House representative to ask him or her to support the Sanders-Paul-Conyers-Nadler Freedom to Read Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Appropriations (CJS) Bill. In addition to Sanders, the CJS amendment is co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). (For Congressional contact information, go to www.house.gov.)
Sanders is the author of the Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157), which was introduced in March 2003 following a letter-writing campaign by Vermont booksellers and librarians. H.R. 1157 exempts bookstore and library records from searches under Section 215. Although the bill has 145 co-sponsors in both parties, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has refused to hold a hearing on it. In an effort to circumvent the committee, Sanders planned to introduce a similar amendment to the CJS bill last summer, but was blocked by technical and procedural problems.
Although President George Bush has asked Congress to renew Section 215 before it expires at the end of 2005, support for amending the law continues to grow. In February, groups representing booksellers, librarians, and writers launched a national petition campaign -- the Campaign for Reader Privacy (CRP) -- to support H.R. 1157 and S.1709, the Security and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act.
Thus far, CRP has gathered over 125,000 signatures in bookstores, libraries, and on its Web site, www.readerprivacy.org. It has also attracted the support of more than 40 organizations representing virtually every bookstore, library, and writer in the country, as well as 81 individual companies, including Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Borders Group, Inc., Holtzbrinck Publishers, Ingram Book Group, Penguin Group USA, Random House, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster.