An extremely cynical trick by the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee was picked up on today by That’s My Congress, our congressional research arm. It seems that Senator Leahy and Senator Feinstein thought that they could pull the wool over the eyes of America’s librarians.
America’s librarians have been ringing the alarm for years, noting that they are being served with huge numbers of National Security Letters enabling the FBI to keep records on the books being read by ordinary Americans who are not suspected of any crime. Leahy thought that he could placate them by throwing them a distraction.
Leahy put his support behind an amendment that would provide a few protections for libraries when it comes to Patriot Act Section 215 database seizures of records by the FBI. He said that ought to be enough for people who wanted restrictions of the Patriot Act. Sound good? Go read the previous paragraph over again, then, and think about it.
It’s not Section 215 seizures that are the problem when it comes to libraries. Senator Dick Durbin revealed today that the FBI has decided to use National Security Letters, not Section 215 powers, to seize private information about Americans’ reading habits from public libraries.
Guess how Senator Leahy arranged to get his bill, S. 1692, to extent the Patriot Act through committee – with no reform of National Security Letters in libraries. Leahy only put small reforms on a tool that the FBI doesn’t use anyway! The National Security Letters, the method that the FBI actually uses to run roughshod over the constitutional rights of people who use libraries, were untouched.
That he would engage in a tactic so transparently deceptive is a sign that Senator Patrick Leahy doesn’t have any respect for libraries, for the intelligence of the American people, or for our constitutional rights. Vermont voters, Patrick Leahy has embraced the dark totalitarian vision of George W. Bush. He doesn’t deserve to be re-elected to the United States Senate in 2010.