Last week, the American Library Association released a statement decrying the chilling effect of the federal Patriot Act law. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI under Patriot Act Section 215 and Section 505 authority can and does obtain patrons’ library records when there is no reason to believe patrons are engaged in criminal behavior, and does it without either the constitutionally required judicial oversight or statement of ‘clear and articulable facts.’ Furthermore, under Section 215 and 505, the FBI imposes gag orders on libraries and librarians who are forced to comply, quashing Americans’ free speech rights and preventing the reporting of abuses to government authority. This has led to absurdities such as Senator Jon Kyl’s recent outburst that there must not be any problems with the Patriot Act abuses of libraries because no affected librarians had complained to him. (Memo to Senator Kyl: They’re forbidden from complaining to you.)
Recognizing that in just three days the House Judiciary Committee will be marking up and sending on H.R. 3845, a Patriot Act reauthorization bill, the ALA issued a general call for Patriot Act reform last week:
…reform is needed to these broad, sweeping policies in order to prevent the abuse of these tools and to protect innocent Americans from the unwarranted surveillance, collection and retention of their personal information.
Today the American Library Association has not only gotten more specific but has sent out a call to action, rallying librarians and citizens across the nation to their phones:
Urgent Action Needed: Call now to reform the PATRIOT Act!
Call your member in the House of Representatives and urge her/him to reform the USA PATRIOT Act now! Please ask your representative to co-sponsor the USA PATRIOT Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 3845), introduced by Rep. Conyers (MI-14) and others on October 20, 2009.
Mr. Conyers and the other cosponsors should be thanked for introducing H.R. 3845. To access the bill text, please click here:
A mark-up in the House Judiciary Committee is currently scheduled for Wednesday, November 4. Your calls are urgently needed before this mark-up! Call your individual representative’s office or the U.S. Capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
BACKGROUND: Three PATRIOT Act provisions are set to expire on December 31, 2009. This is the best chance we have had in the last eight years to get significant reforms to Section 215, often called the “library provision,” and to national security letters (NSLs).
… the Senate is set to pass a bill with far, far weaker reforms. Also, as expected, there is significant opposition to these reforms, including from the White House, the Department of Justice and the House Intelligence Committee. Many calls from library supporters and others will be needed to overcome this opposition. Call now with the following message:
* Pass H.R. 3845 to protect reader privacy and other First Amendment activities in libraries and bookstores; Reform Section 215 and national security letters so that a higher legal standard is required to obtain these types of orders;
* Ensure and maintain the legal right to challenge gag orders and require judicial review and reassessment to continue such gag orders;
* Continue the required audits and public reports so that Congress and the public can assess the impact of these laws; and
* Maintain the sunsets so that there can be regular Congressional and public oversight to protect against abuses of law enforcement powers.
Librarians: they know what they’re talking about.
Make that call.