Wisconsin Booksellers to Request Meeting with House Judiciary Chairman Re: H.R. 1157

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The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) is asking Wisconsin independent booksellers to sign a letter that will be sent to Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the House Judiciary Committee chair, regarding the Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157). In the letter, the booksellers express their support for the Act and also request a meeting with the congressman.

"Wisconsin's independent booksellers are deeply concerned by the threat that Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act poses to the confidentiality of our customers' book purchase records," the letter states. "There is a serious danger" that customers of both libraries and bookstores are growing fearful that the FBI may be monitoring their reading choices. It continues, "If this fear grows, people will no longer feel free to purchase and borrow books that are protected by the First Amendment."

The signatories of the letter state, "[We] strongly support … the Freedom to Read Protection Act, which restores the protections for the confidentiality of bookstore records that were eliminated by the Patriot Act. Indeed, the book and library community recently issued a statement endorsing H.R. 1157 that included the names of over 30 associations as well as some of the biggest book retailers and distributors in the country….

"We would very much like to meet with you the next time you are home in Wisconsin to explain our concerns about Section 215." (To read the letter in full, click here.)

Ultimately, supporters of the Freedom to Read Protection Act hope that Sensenbrenner, as House Judiciary Committee chairman, will decide to hold a hearing on the bill. In early June, a "tripartisan" group of four members of Congress, including the bill's sponsor Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, sent a letter to the Wisconsin Congressman requesting that he hold hearings on the Act. (For a previous article on this topic, click here.)

And while no hearing is yet scheduled, Sensenbrenner has more than once publicly expressed significant concerns regarding the USA Patriot Act. Last August, he threatened Attorney General John Ashcroft with a subpoena if he did not reveal, among other things, how many subpoenas the Justice Department has issued under the USA Patriot Act to bookstores, libraries, and newspapers (http://news.bookweb.org/read/734). And in an April New York Times article, Sensenbrenner complained that the Justice Department isn't sharing enough information for lawmakers to make a judgment on how well or poorly the USA Patriot Act is working.

In the meantime, support for Sanders' Freedom to Read Protection Act bill continues to grow. At present, the bill has 115 co-sponsors, including 13 Republicans. (For a full list of co-sponsors, click here.)

Wisconsin booksellers who would like to sign the letter should contact ABFFE president Chris Finan at chris@abffe.com or (212) 587-4025.




Hon. James Sensenbrenner
120 Bishops Way, Room 154
Brookfield, WI 53005-6294

Dear Congressman Sensenbrenner,

Wisconsin's independent booksellers are deeply concerned by the threat that Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act poses to the confidentiality of our customers' book purchase records. We believe that there is a serious danger that our customers and the patrons of our state's libraries are growing fearful that the FBI may be monitoring their choice of reading material. If this fear grows, people will no longer feel free to purchase and borrow books that are protected by the First Amendment.

Because of these concerns, the undersigned booksellers strongly support H.R. 1157, the Freedom to Read Protection Act, which restores the protections for the confidentiality of bookstore records that were eliminated by the Patriot Act. Indeed, the book and library community recently issued a statement endorsing H.R. 1157 that included the names of over 30 associations as well as some of the biggest book retailers and distributors in the country. We are attaching a copy of this statement.

We would very much like to meet with you the next time you are home in Wisconsin to explain our concerns about Section 215. We understand the many uncertainties surrounding the Congressional schedule, so we are willing to meet whenever and wherever it is most convenient for you.

As retailers, we are sometimes hard to reach. We would appreciate it if your staff would coordinate details to set up a meeting with Chris Finan of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. He can be reached by telephone at (212) 587-4025 or by e-mail at chris@abffe.com.

Thank you for your consideration.