Libraries to fight for surveillance law reform in next Congress; warn 'PATRIOT Act protectionists' of 'political peril'

For Immediate Release
Wed, 11/19/2014


Jazzy Wright
Press Officer
ALA Washington Office

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff released the following statement on the U.S. Senate’s failure last night to bring the USA FREEDOM Act, a bill that would have improved the balance between terrorism prevention and personal privacy protection, to the Senate floor for debate and an eventual up or down vote:

"Librarians have been fighting for 13 years to restore a reasonable balance between civil liberties and national security and thus strongly supported Senator Leahy’s USA FREEDOM ACT.  We’re saddened that this finely tuned package of modest reforms -backed by major civil liberties organizations, the White House, leading conservatives and even the Director of National Intelligence--was denied consideration in the Senate by just two votes. A huge majority of Americans has said time and again that they want and deserve security without sacrificing privacy and liberty. When the USA PATRIOT Act’s renewal is debated in the next Congress, ALA and our more than 55,000 members will be back to demand changes in the law that answer that call. Patriot Act protectionists will thwart the American people again only at their political peril."

The USA FREEDOM Act would have effectively ended the government’s bulk collection of phone and internet call records, permitted phone and internet companies to more meaningfully disclose the number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders and National Security Letters they receive, and allow “special advocates” to appear before the secret FISA court in key cases to defend the public’s interests and civil liberties. The legislation would have amend Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which is often called the “library provision” because of the government’s reliance upon it to seek disclosure of library patrons’ reading and internet surfing records.

"The “lame duck” Congress is not expected to take additional action on the USA Freedom Act before permanently adjourning next month.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 55,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.